Breaking Down the Different Types of Teeth in the Animal Kingdom

A black and white dog looking up at the camera with teeth showing

Breaking Down the Different Types of Teeth in the Animal Kingdom

Sharks replace their teeth every two weeks… why don’t dogs? You may have heard that sharks continuously lose and replace their teeth throughout life. Have you ever wondered why that doesn’t happen to you (or your dog)? Wouldn’t it be nice if your broken tooth would just fall out and you’d grow a new one? Our team will help you to understand this by explaining the different types of teeth in the animal kingdom.

The Three Basic Types of Tooth Development

There are three basic types of tooth development, which are called monophyodonty, polyphyodonty and diphyodonty.
Humans, as well as dogs and cats, are diphyodont, meaning they have two sets of teeth in their lives – one set of baby teeth (also known as deciduous teeth) and one set of permanent, adult teeth. Sharks and crocodiles are polyphyodont, meaning their teeth are continually lost and replaced throughout life. Most rodents, as well as dolphins, are monophydont, meaning they don’t have baby teeth. They only ever have one set of teeth – no tooth fairy for them!

The Two Basic Categories of Tooth Shape

Some animals are considered homodont, like sharks and reptiles. The teeth of these animals are all the same shape and size. Humans, dogs and cats are heterodont, meaning they have different kinds of teeth for different purposes. Like people, dogs and cats have incisors, canines, premolars and molars. Incisors are used for nibbling and cutting through food. Canines are used for biting and ripping food. Molars are used for grinding food into small pieces. Premolars are an in-between type of tooth used for carrying food back to the molars.

The Three Common Types of Tooth Anchorage

Have you ever wondered what keeps your teeth in your mouth? Humans, dogs and cats are thecodont, meaning their teeth are held in the socket with a thick, fibrous ligament. In some reptiles, the teeth are fused directly to the bone. This is called pleurodonty.
Some teeth just keep on growing!

Some species have teeth that continue to erupt throughout life and get worn down as the animal chews. These teeth are well-adapted for crushing and grinding and are often found in herbivore animals that eat a lot of grass and roughage, such as horses, cows, rabbits and the incisor teeth of rodents such as guinea pigs. These teeth are called hypsodont.

There is a huge variety in the shape, size and function of teeth within the animal kingdom, and there are many groups and classification systems used by scientists and veterinarians to describe and classify the different types of teeth. There can even be multiple types of teeth found within a single mouth! Teeth are a useful tool that can give us information regarding an animal’s age, diet, habitat and history.


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