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Teeth of the Animal Kingdom

by Dr. Sam Muslin

Though we don't think about them very much, teeth are an important part of our lives. We use them every day, put them under our pillows for the tooth fairy when they fall out, and smile with them. We even have special doctors called dentists to make sure they stay healthy. So why are our pearly whites so important? For all animals that have them, including humans, teeth are the first step in digesting food.

Tooth Anatomy

The primary layers of the tooth: enamel, dentin, and pulp.

Teeth are made up of three different layers. An outer layer of enamel covers the inner, bone-like dentin. Both of these layers surround the pulp, which has all of the nerves and blood vessels. Animals have evolved many different kinds of teeth depending on their needs.

The Teeth: Meat Eating Carnivores vs Plant-Eating Herbivores

Comparing Meat-Eating  Carnivore Teeth Plant-Eating Herbivore Teeth

Carnivores, or animals that eat only meat, have sharp incisors and canines they use to grab and rip apart their food. Herbivores eat plants instead of other animals, and they have evolved two types of teeth to better eat plant matter. The front teeth, or incisors, are made for clipping or stripping grasses, leaves, and other vegetation, while flat, broad molars at the back of the mouth chew and grind. Omnivores, or animals that eat both plants and other animals, have teeth designed to not only grip and rip meat but to grind plant matter.

Herbivores

Carnivores

Omnivores

Additional Resources