Everyone knows that human teeth are very versatile, allowing us to tear through meat and vegetables with ease. We also go through two sets of teeth in our lifetimes, and now have the technology to repair and replace damaged teeth.
But out in the animal kingdom, they don’t have fillings and dental implants to help with their teeth. Instead, there’s so many animals out there that have evolutionary dental traits that will scare you or fascinate you.
Ready? Take a look at our top five choices for most fascinating animal teeth.
This species of shark is notorious for the many horror films that are based around them, from “Jaws” to the upcoming “The Shallows.” While shark attacks are rare, those hundreds of teeth still scare the daylights out of us. But did you know that shark teeth are actually quite fragile?
Sharks rip and tear through flesh and bone for their meals almost everyday, so it can be expected that they’ll lose one or more teeth frequently. Luckily, sharks have a backup plan. For every tooth that you can visibly see in a shark’s mouth, there are three or four more waiting just behind it. When a front tooth is lost, a new one slowly moves up into position to take it’s place. As a top predator, the Great White Shark goes through a lot of teeth, so it’s good that it has this built-in dental supply ready to go.
Have you ever heard of a babirusa? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t. This type of pig may be a rare sight in your local zoo, but it sports some truly amazing tusks. Typically, in other animals, two tusks are formed from the lower canines, but in the babirusa case they have four tusks: two for each arch of teeth. As a result, it looks like two of the tusks are growing straight out of the babirusa’s snout.
These tusks are used to fight for dominance and do break frequently. However, if a tusk doesn’t break, they will continue to grow and curve backwards. While cases are rare, a babirusa skeleton has been found where the tusk curved all the way back and pierced the skull.
Elephants are herbivores, foraging for grasses and foliage for an average 12 hours a day. With all that chewing, you can imagine that an elephant’s teeth would look flattened. A fresh elephant tooth actually has ridges to crush food, but it’s true that these teeth do flatten out over time.
However, the elephant doesn’t have to worry about how they’re going to eat. They have a built-in conveyor belt system that supplies their jaw with new teeth steadily over time. New teeth form at the back of the jaw and shift forward, pushing out old and flat teeth toward the front. Over an elephant’s lifetime, they’ll go through an average of five or six complete sets of teeth. That’s pretty efficient!
Narwhals were given the nickname, “the unicorns of the sea,” and that’s pretty fitting. Some people may think that the horn is made of hair follicles like a rhino, but it’s actually an overgrown tooth, therefore making it a tusk! The tusk of the narwhal grows through the upper lip and spirals to the left. Scientists have discovered that the tusk is covered with sensory material, allowing the narwhals to measure water temperature and composition. As for other uses for the tusks, scientists are still unsure.
Now, this is more of a fun fact and doesn’t impact how a dolphin hunts or eats its food. But did you know that dolphins and trees have something in common? Yes, it sounds strange, but it’s true!
As a dolphin grows, they actually keep the same set of teeth for their lifetime. With each year that they grow, a new protective layer is added to their teeth. If you took one of those teeth and sliced it open, you would see rings of layers just like tree rings. And, just like a tree, you can tell how old a dolphin is by checking out its teeth rings.
These are just a few examples of animals that have teeth adapted to their environment and food source. Unfortunately, we humans don’t possess these cool adaptations, but we have technology on our side. If you’re missing one or more teeth, or are otherwise unhappy with your smile, contact Tharp & Klaus today. We proudly serve patients from Jackson, MS and beyond, and can’t wait to help restore your smile.
Consult with Dr. Tharp & Dr. Klaus whether you need teeth cleaning, oral screening, or restorative dental care in Jackson, MS. You can trust our team to deliver quality dental services that will leave you with a smile on your face. We believe that each and every patient that walks through our door deserves a great smile, and we’ll work with you to find the treatments that fit your needs. During our consultations, you’ll be able to ask your questions one-on-one, get evaluated, and learn more about the ins and outs of your dental treatment.
Don’t hesitate to contact us today; you deserve a beautiful brilliant smile.