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9 Amazing Facts About Animal Teeth

Here, you learn all about teeth in animals!

Teeth have different jobs and so come in different shapes. This is true in animals as well as in humans. For example, we have incisors, canines and molars. We use our incisors to scrape food or cut it up into bite-size pieces, and we use our molars to chew. What kind of teeth do animals have?

Horse Teeth Horse Teeth - Photo: Studio 37/Shutterstock



Types of Teeth:

• Tusks

Function: Climbing aid, “tool”, defense

Canines can get very long in the animal kingdom. They’re then called tusks. Walruses and elephants, for example, have tusks. Walruses use their tusks to help them climb out of the water. Their long tusks also help defend them from polar bears, and they can cause such serious injuries that they can suffer for weeks from the wound, or even die. Elephants also use their tusks to defend themselves. They use them to dig and lift tree trunks as well.

• Canines

Function: Holding prey

In predators, canines are much longer and bigger than all other teeth. That’s why they’re also called fangs.

• Carnassials

Function: Cutting up prey, breaking bones


Not to be confused with canines or fangs. Carnassials are located towards the back of the jaw and their job is to cut through muscle, sinew, cartilage and bone.

• Incisors

Function: Chopping, cutting

Incisors are mostly used by plant eaters to cut grass and other plants.

• Molars

Function: Grinding

Plant eaters have molars to grind food into a paste.

Walrus Walrus - Photo: BMJ/Shutterstock


Do Animals Get Toothache?

Just like us, animals can get toothache and suffer dreadfully from it. The cause is usually ulcers in the tooth roots.


Do Animals Have to Brush Their Teeth?

Why do we have to brush our teeth when animals never do it? Okay, “never” isn’t completely true but they don’t use toothbrushes. Some animals have their teeth brushed for them, like crocodiles that have birds do it (known as the “crocodile bird”). But most animals actually do without dental care. However, animals eat very differently to us humans. We eat a lot of sweet foods, which means we grow a lot of bacteria on our teeth. Apart from humans, only pets like and cats dogs and cats get holes in their teeth.

Tasmanian Devil Tasmanian Devil - Photo: Bernhard Richter/Shutterstock


Why Sharks and Sea Cows Never Need a Dentist

Sharks often lose a dozen teeth from hunting. Just one shark can lose up to 30,000 teeth in its lifetime. Shark teeth don’t simply grow back, like how we get our second set of teeth. Behind their “main” row of teeth, several rows of teeth grow at the same time. If a tooth breaks off in the first row, a new tooth moves to take its place. Just like a new bullet being loaded into a revolver.

That’s why the shark’s teeth are sometimes called “revolver teeth”. The sea cow has a similar system. They mostly eat plants but they also end up eating a lot of sand, which damages their teeth. At the back of their jaw, there are always new teeth growing, which then move slowly forward. Around 1cm a month. The sea cow never has more than six teeth at the top or bottom at any time.

Great White Shark Great White Shark - Photo: Dominique de La Croix/Shutterstock


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