Many of us eagerly anticipated a visit from the Tooth Fairy as kids, enjoying the magic of tooth loss. Getting a second set of teeth in is an important part of our dental development. Our baby teeth create the foundation and make way for our adult molars. At Dr. Cindy Flanagan’s Houston dental practice, we’re very familiar with this process. We provide a wide array of general and cosmetic dentistry services to care for the wellbeing and beauty of your teeth. We also make ourselves available to answer any of your oral health questions. In the following blog, we answer the common query: “which animals lose their teeth?”
Baby Teeth Basics
Whether you’re learning about human or animal teeth, it’s important to understand why there are two sets. In her New York Times Science Section Q&A, C. Claiborne Ray explains: “baby teeth are more scientifically called deciduous teeth, because they are shed like leaves…mammals, with few exceptions, have two sets of teeth…the key to mammalian success is specialized teeth, for many different foods…two sets, often with different mixes of types, provide for even more adaptability.” Essentially, mammals’ teeth are suited to their particular circumstances, and babies have different needs from adults. Ray goes on: “when mammals are little and growing…the initial source of food is milk, and they do not need teeth at all…then, as the animal gets a full-sized jaw, it loses the baby teeth and the second set of teeth emerges for the adult diet.” As many animals (including humans) age, they trade in one set of teeth for another to better fit their foods.
Feline Fangs and Canine Chompers
Our favorite household pets lose their teeth, just like us! Harmony Animal Hospital explains: “cats begin losing their baby teeth at around 12 weeks or three months…the average kitten will have lost all her baby teeth by between six and nine months.” Rather than hiding them under their kitty beds, kittens may “drop [their baby teeth] at odd times, including when the kitten is eating” and kitten owners may “expect to find tiny kitten crowns lodged in bedding, furniture, and rugs.” Similarly, the American Kennel Club describes: “at around four months of age—and it can vary from breed to breed and even from dog to dog—the 28 puppy teeth are replaced with 42 adult canine teeth, which include molars.”
Shark teeth are some of the most famous animal molars out there. While they don’t “lose” them in the way that we do, sharks do occasionally have teeth fall out. Wonderpolis notes: “unlike human teeth, shark teeth are not very strong and tend to fall out easily. It’s not a big deal for sharks, because they are constantly producing new teeth to replace the ones they lose. In fact, some sharks can have over 50,000 teeth over the course of their lives!” This is, again, an example of how adaptable teeth can be: since sharks chomp on prey all day, they need to constantly grow new teeth to survive.
These large, beautiful mammals have some of the most fascinating teeth of all. Earth Life explains that they “have the largest teeth in the world” and their “tusks are actually modified incisors.” Like most mammals, they also have different sets of teeth, but they have more than two! Super Beefy writes: “elephants, with their diet of coarse vegetation, have six sets of molars to last them through their long lives.” They must get lots of coins from the Tooth Fairy!
Do You Have More Toothy Questions?
Dr. Flanagan and our team are here to help you! Contact our Houston dental practice today to discover more and schedule your next appointment.