Animal Dental Facts
Every animal’s mouth is different, featuring adaptations based largely on what that animal eats. Meat eaters have sharp pointy teeth used to grip their prey while herbivores have flat teeth that are needed for eat vegetation. Some animals grow new sets of teeth continuously throughout their lives (sharks), other animals’ teeth don’t fall out, but actually continue growing longer to compensate for being worn down (rabbits).
The number of teeth animals have also varies. Some of the numbers may surprise you. For example:
- Just like humans, adult sheep have 32 permanent teeth and lambs have 20 baby teeth.
- Giraffes also have 32.
- Cats have adult 30 teeth and 26 baby (or “milk”) teeth.
- Dogs 42 adult teeth and 28 baby teeth.
- Armadillos have 104.
- The long-snouted spinner dolphin can have up to 252 teeth.
- Pigs have 44 teeth.
Here are a some other interesting animal facts we came across:
- Since they don’t consume sugar, animals rarely develop cavities. They can develop other dental issues, such as plaque and tartar buildup, periodontal diseases (such as gingivitis).
- Elephants are either right- or left-tusked the same way humans are right- or left-handed.
- A horse's gums recede with age, making the horse's teeth appear longer and longer as he gets older. (That's where we get the expression "long in the tooth.")
- During the Middle Ages in Germany, people believed that kissing a donkey could relieve toothaches.
- The Egyptian plover flies into the open mouths of crocodiles and cleans their teeth. It's like a hygienist with wings!
- The bat has the same tools in its mouth that we do, but uses them very differently. Its saliva contains a mild anesthetic, so its host doesn't feel any irritation when it feeds. The bat's sharp incisor teeth make a triangular wound, and its tongue has a rough texture to it that opens the wound wider. Then it makes a kind of funnel out of its tongue and sucks the blood.
- Lions have 30 teeth, but cannot chew their food because their jaws can’t move from side to side.
- A hippo’s teeth can grow up to 20 inches long.
- A walrus’ tusk can weigh up to 12 pounds.
- Minnows’ teeth are in their throats.
- Some insects also have teeth in their stomachs, or gizzards, to grind food.
- Last but not least, our favorite animal: the flamingo! Its jaw is the opposite of humans’. The bottom jaw is stationary and the top moves on a hinge-like joint.
*** Flossie is a cartoon flamingo, and she only uses the internet for "research." Any inaccuracies are entirely Flossie’s fault; she apologizes for them and takes full responsibility. Flossie would also like to give all photo credit to Meghan, who helped write this blog.