Here at David Forlano, DDS, we love to help our patients learn more about their dental health, so that they can best care for them. But occasionally, we love to share some fun facts too! Just like how human teeth have adapted to our diets, so too have animals adapted to their environments and food sources. As a result, some animals in this world have garnered some truly fascinating teeth! Take a look below at just five animals with incredible teeth, and how they use them in the wild.
These large land mammals are herbivores, and as such they need grinding teeth to eat all their favorite plants. But if elephants eat for over 12 hours a day, you can imagine that their teeth must be as flat as tables. Elephant teeth are generally flat, but with edges and grooves just like your molars. But it’s also true that these teeth flatten out as they eat. So, what’s an elephant to do? Luckily, they have a built-in teeth replenishing system right in their jaw: new teeth erupt from the back of the jaw and push all the other teeth forward, so that the most flattened ones eventually fall out and are disposed of. This process is done slowly, as elephants only go through around 5 or 6 sets of teeth over their lifetime. With a steady supply of new teeth, elephants don’t need to worry about struggling to chew.
At first, dolphin teeth don’t look very unusual. They’re pointed, perfect for hunting fish and other small prey, but otherwise aren’t that amazing at first glance. But it was discovered that dolphins actually have something in common with trees: you can tell their age by their rings. You might be asking yourself, what rings are in dolphin teeth? Turns out, as dolphins grow from infancy, their teeth also grow layers each year. And just like a tree, if you cut these teeth in half, you can see the rings in the teeth that approximately equate to the dolphin’s age.
Great white sharks are well-known in pop culture and the animal kingdom as terrifying predators. Their teeth are a large reason for that fear as well. Great white shark teeth are pointed with serrated edges, like saw-tooth knives on a small scale. These teeth are used to shred prey, but are also susceptible to falling out if they become damaged or stuck. You might expect a shark would lose a lot of teeth as they crunch through bone and other tough prey, but just like the elephant, the great white shark has a back-up plan. Behind every single tooth that you can see in the shark’s mouth, there are three or four more waiting right behind it, hidden in the mouth. It’s like an assembly line of teeth: when one is lost, the next tooth behind it flips up to take its place.
You’ve seen other types of tusks in the animal kingdom: boars, elephants, and even walruses. But babirusa tusks are truly extraordinary. While the latter animals typically have two tusks, the babirusa has four. Male babirusa have lower and upper canines that continually grow throughout their lifetime. The upper canines are responsible for the unusual third and fourth tusks that seem to emerge out of their noses. They use these four tusks to fight each other, though it’s easy to break them. Additionally, there have been babirusa skulls found where one of the upper tusks never broke, and continued to grow until it curved all the way back and pierced through the skull.
Known as the “unicorns of the sea”, narwhal whales are famous for their single long horn that juts out from the front of their heads. It was discovered that this horn is actually a tooth, growing from the upper canine tooth and emerging through the lip. Unlike other animals that may use horns and tusks for fighting, it was not immediately clear what this horn was for. However, researchers discovered that this horn is temperature-sensitive and can “taste” changes in the water, which has led biologists to believe that the horn is used to find food and other narwhals.
Unfortunately, us humans only have two sets of teeth in our lifetime: our “baby” teeth and “adult” teeth. And if we lose a tooth, we can’t grow new ones like elephants or sharks, so we have to turn to artificial means to replace them. Join us at David Forlano, DDS and consult with our dental implant specialist about how you can fill in the missing teeth in your smile with revolutionary dental implants.
Dr. David Forlano
375 East Main Street
East Islip, NY
Monday: 10am - 7pm
Tuesday: 8am - 2pm
Wednesday: 10am - 7pm
Friday: 8am - 2pm
Saturday: By Appointment