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Animal Tooth Truths

October 7th, 2021


…have two sets of teeth in a lifetime

Humans are born without teeth. The first set of teeth, known as primary or baby teeth begin to push through the gums at about 6 months of age. Humans have 20 baby teeth. These are replaced by permanent or adult teeth starting at approximately 6 years of age. When all permanent teeth have grown in there will be 32 of them.


Blue Whales…

…have no teeth!

They may be the largest mammals on earth but their diet consists of eating one of the tiniest sea creatures on earth. Blue whales eat tiny shrimp known as krill, so they don’t need teeth. Instead, they have bristle-like filters called baleen that comb through the water for krill.



…are like trees

In one sense anyway. As you likely know, the age of a tree can be determined by counting the rings within its trunk. Similarly, a dolphin’s teeth have rings inside them and counting these rings will tell you the dolphin’s age.

Another tidbit is that although a dolphin’s teeth are permanent, they are not used for chewing because they do not have jaw muscles. Dolphins swallow their food whole.



…do not have upper front teeth

Like humans, giraffes have 32 teeth. But, unlike humans none of them can be called top front teeth. Instead, most of the teeth are located in the back of the mouth. Giraffes use their lips and 20-foot long tongues to grab leaves and twigs and grind them up with their back teeth.



…have more than one claim to fame

Hippopotamuses are well known as big animals who can open their mouth very wide. But they have another claim to fame. Their incisors are 3 feet long and are readily able to bite through a small boat!



…are not all long in the tooth

Just like humans, horses can have receding gums. As horses age, it looks like their teeth are growing but in truth, their gums are receding showing more of their teeth.

This is in fact where the expression “long in the tooth” comes from. As it is only old horses that appear to have very long teeth due to receding gums it stands to reason the expression means old.

Another interesting fact is that a horse’s teeth take up more space in the head than the brain.


Rabbits, squirrels, and rodents…

…have teeth that never stop growing

To stop the forever growing teeth from getting too long these animals must chew on tough foods like nuts, bark and leaves to wear the teeth down.



…lose a lot of teeth but they will never be toothless

They will never be toothless because their mouths are like tooth factories! Shark teeth grow in rows. Over time, the smaller teeth in the back rows grow and move up, replacing the older ones in the row in front of them. In a healthy shark there will never be an empty space in any of the teeth rows because they continually grow new ones in the back most row.

It is estimated a shark loses at least one tooth per week and 30,000 in a lifetime.




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