Dental Disease in Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragon with gingivitis
Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)

Dental disease in bearded dragons appears to be more prevalent in captivity than in the wild. Lizards actually lack tooth sockets and their teeth rest on the bone of their maxilla or mandible. These images show severe periodontal disease and osteomyelitis. There is inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), recession of the gums and calculus buildup on the teeth. In severe cases, pocketing around the gums occurs with suppurative gingivitis, abscesses and even osteomyelitis occurring.

This is a radiograph of the skull showing separation of the teeth from the mandibular bone.

Jasper edited

It appears there are a few factors which contribute to dental disease in lizards:

  1. Inappropriate nutrition – overfeeding of softer foods such as fruit and insects can lead to plaque formation as the food accumulates around the teeth.
  2. Infection – as plaque builds up, this leads to infection and gingivitis of the gums. Typically, in early infections, gram positive cocci are present then as plaque matures organisms include anaerobes, gram negatives and spirochetes
  3. Trauma- such as nose rubbing on glass or bone weakened by nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (Metabolic Bone Disease) can lead to facial deformities (rubber jaw) or malalignment of the jaws.
Bearded Dragon Periodontal Disease
Gingival recession and plaque buildup

Treatment usually involves the following:

  1. Addressing the underlying causes – husbandry and diet modification
  2. Culture and sensitivity – for appropriate anti-microbial choice
  3. Dental x-rays – to assess for boney lytic lesions suggestive of osteomyelitis
  4. Anesthetized oral exam and dental cleaning – to remove the superficial calculus buildup and deep debridement of bone
  5. Long-term monitoring and home care with chlorhexidine oral flushes and tooth brushing.


  • Lafeber Vet: Understanding Reptile Dental Anatomy: Clinical Applications:
  • McCraken HE. Periodontal disease in lizards – A Review of Numerous Cases, 1994, Proceedings of Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nakisha Cruz

    Hello my name is Nikki and I have a 4 year old male bearded dragon named Brian. I have taken him to the vet and have a date set for two weeks to get a mass removed from his tongue area and he does have gum disease which I have been treating with the antiseptic oral rinse and he is on anti-inflammatory medicine and my vet just had me stop the antibiotics he was on
    My main concern is after the surgery as far as feeding what I should or shouldn’t give him if this is something that is going to cause death..I’m just afraid of what do bet says that Brian is completely healthy of course besides the mouth issue..just a beardy mom looking for some clarity and vet seems to not have much input but maybe I’m asking the wrong questions

    1. Dr Amber Lee

      Hi Nikki,

      First, I am sorry to hear that your bearded dragon Brian needs surgery. That is certainly nerve wracking. Post-surgery feeding is important for all animals and I encourage you to discuss these concerns you have with your veterinarian. They will be able to advise you best on what food to feed Brian after surgery.

      I wish you both well and hope that Brian has a speedy recovery.

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