Fun Facts About Animal Teeth
Most mammals, humans included, have teeth. Humans use their teeth to break down their food so they can swallow it. Human teeth also play an essential role in our speech and our ability to articulate different words. Humans have four different types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Our favorite animals also have teeth. Let’s take a look and learn more about animal teeth and their uses with Dr. Reimer and the Pediatric Dental Specialists team. Are you ready? Bare those pearly whites and let out your best growl. Let’s learn about animal teeth!
1. Elephant tusks are teeth!
Yes, it’s true. Elephant tusks originated from teeth. Tusks were designed to give elephants an evolutionary advantage to help them dig, lift objects, gather food, strip bark from trees, eat, and defend themselves. However, not all elephants have tusks. Both male and female African elephants have tusks, but only male Asian elephants have tusks.
Not only that, but just like you are left or right-handed, elephants are either left- or right-tusked! You can determine an elephant’s dominant tusk by looking to see which one is more worn down, just as you can see if a person is left- or right-handed by how they hold a pencil.
2. Sharks have five or more rows of teeth
Sharks have rows and rows of teeth, with most having between five to 15 rows. Bull sharks can have up to 50 rows of teeth! The most prominent teeth face outward, and the smaller teeth in the back grow over time and eventually move up to replace the teeth in the front. Since sharks have so many teeth, this is why we often see shark tooth necklaces at beachfront stores. Shark teeth fall out all the time.
Unlike humans, however, sharks don’t need to go to the dentist for fluoride treatments. They have an added advantage because their teeth are covered in fluoride and are cavity-resistant. And unfortunately for a shark’s prey, sharks still prefer to munch on other sea critters instead of Skittles or M&M’s.
3. A horse’s teeth never stop growing.
Humans have two sets of teeth, and so do horses. When we are born, our baby teeth are hiding under our gums, waiting to come out. When our baby teeth fall out, our new adult teeth push through the gums to replace them. By the time we are 12 or so, our adult teeth have all come in, and we will have, at most, 32 teeth. A healthy male horse will have 40 permanent teeth, and a typical healthy mare (female) horse will have somewhere between 36 to 40 teeth.
Even though they will only have two sets of teeth during their lifetime, their teeth continue to grow as they age. It is easy for horses to eat all of that grass and hay because the enamel on their teeth erodes and is then naturally replaced over time. Maybe this is why horses like apples so much!
4. Mice have teeth that keep growing and growing.
Just like horses, mice teeth keep growing for their entire lifespan. Mice have twelve molars and four incisors. Mice incisors can grow at a rate of up to 0.3mm each day, but their molars will never grow. Now we know why mice are always chewing on things they aren’t supposed to. They need to gnaw on items to grind down their hard teeth to a comfortable length for their mouth.
5. Hippos have the longest canine teeth of any animal.
Did you know that hippos can run 30 miles per hour? If you aren’t sure how fast that is, be sure to ask your mom or dad the next time you are in the car how quick that is. Can you believe that such a large and heavy animal can run that fast? It’s true!
In addition to their super speedy running, hippos also have super long and super sharp teeth. Hippo incisors can grow up to three feet long and are powerful enough to bite through a small boat. Healthy adult hippos will have 36 teeth total, including two incisors (these are the teeth that can grow to be three feet long), one canine tooth, three premolars, and three molars on each half of the jaw on both sides. The hippopotamus’s strength (including those big teeth) and speed makes it one of the world’s most dangerous animals.
6. Blue whales don’t have teeth.
One exception to the rule that most mammals have teeth is the blue whale. Blue whales, famous for being the largest animal to ever live, reaching 1,010 feet in length and weighing as much as 190 tons, don’t have any teeth. Instead of teeth, blue whales have 270–395 plates of baleen on either side of their jaw. Baleen looks very similar to teeth. It looks like long, thin teeth that have been placed very close to one another inside the whale’s mouth. Whales use their baleen to catch small animals swimming in the water.
7. Bears can get cavities.
When you think of a bear, you probably think about its big, scary teeth. But bear teeth have many similarities to human teeth. Of course, bears and their teeth are far more intimidating, but bear teeth are made up of the root covered in pulp and surrounded in dentin and held together by tooth enamel, just like your teeth.
Researchers and zoologists that study and care for bears have learned that these animals can develop tooth decay, tooth fractures, and even gum disease. And just like humans, bears can get cavities. Maybe bears should adopt healthier eating habits that are good for their teeth. Or perhaps they should just stop eating so much honey.
Before you read on, be sure to check out today’s beary funny joke!
Dr. Reimer: What do you call a bear with no teeth?
Dr. Reimer: A gummy bear.
Differences Between Human Teeth and Animal Teeth
Human teeth and animal teeth have many differences. One of the main differences is that humans will only develop two sets of teeth throughout their lifetime. Dolphins only produce one set of teeth, but sharks build rows and rows of teeth.
Humans will have 32 teeth at most throughout their lifetime. As we learned by reading this article, horses have 36 to 40 teeth, sharks have rows and rows of teeth, and the blue whale doesn’t have any teeth at all. Though we didn’t talk about these animals in our article, you might also like to know that spinner dolphins have as many as 252 teeth, and toothed whales can have 240 teeth or more! And another fun fact is that there are over 100 fish teeth in the ocean for every animal tooth on land!
Human teeth require care and dedication.
Unlike the shark with naturally cavity-free teeth, humans need to take time and effort to care for their teeth. Practicing oral hygiene is critical in preventing childhood cavities. Regular tooth-brushing and flossing are essential for avoiding common dental issues, such as plaque, tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Children can take steps to protect their teeth in 10 minutes or less per day.
Humans can do one thing to protect their human teeth that animals can’t do to protect theirs, and that’s visiting the dentist twice per year. Visiting the dentist is a positive experience and one you will do regularly for your entire life. If you are ready to help protect your teeth and tell Dr. Reimer everything you know about animal teeth, ask your parents or guardian to schedule your next dental appointment. We can’t wait to hear what you have learned.