This summer, while visiting Connecticut’s Hammonasset beaches, I stopped into Meigs Point Nature Center. Besides the living creatures filling numerous aquariums and terrariums, the center also had a large collection of animal skulls on display. Ever the dental student, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by all the different types of teeth these creatures had and wonder their purpose. When I got home that evening, I thought I’d hit the net and find out more! Here are just a few fun facts I uncovered:
- Dogs: it seems that man’s best friend rarely gets cavities because their saliva has an extremely high pH which prevents demineralization
- Horses: equine teeth have intertwined enamel and dentin and permanent teeth continue growing after full eruption to compensate for attrition (similar to rodent incisors). Most all males have 4 canines, but very few females do
- Elephants: this animal’s tusks are overgrown incisors, specialized for scooping (unlike walrus tusks which are actually canines). These giants also grind down their molars, which can weigh up to 10 lbs, then grow replacements six times during their lives
- Moose: like other members of the deer family, moose only have lower incisors with no opposing uppers, and these are separated from the posterior dentition by a huge diastema
- Whales: each tooth is completely encased in cementum, except for the tips of teeth in older whales where the cementum has worn away to reveal the enamel below. Narwhals have a huge single tusk, like a unicorn, that is the most neurologically complex tooth known and used in eating, navigating, and even mating
- Snails: their mouths are no larger than the head of a pin, but can have over 25,000 teeth – which are located on the tongue!
- Rabbits: almost all mammals have primary and permanent dentitions, but bunnies typically lose their baby teeth in utero
- Sharks and Lizards: most reptiles and fish are considered “polyphydonts” and exfoliate old teeth to be replaced by new
Do you know any “fun facts” about other animals’ dentitions???
~Ashley N. Phares, Connecticut ’13, contributing editor