Elephants are remarkable creatures. The largest living land animals are intelligent animals who can show understanding, compassion, and even creativity. Their teeth are no less remarkable, especially in comparison to human teeth.
Learn how elephant teeth and other animal teeth compare to human teeth.
Elephant Tusks Are Teeth
The most visible elephant teeth are their tusks, which grow out on either side of their trunk. Unlike narwhal tusks, elephant tusks are essentially structured just like your teeth, only larger. Asian elephants may be without tusks, and about 50% of Asian elephants develop what are known as “tushes,” or tusks without pulp.
One-third of an elephant tooth is made of pulp, blood, and nerves, just like humans! The visible ivory part of an elephant tusk is made of dense dentin which is also found in human teeth. Although many tusks are canines, elephant tusks are actually incisors that grow to remarkable proportions. How remarkable depends on the elephant.
Just like every human has a unique set of teeth that no other humans will have, elephants have a unique set of tusks. Try guessing who someone is based on their teeth alone and you will easily see that every set of teeth varies in appearance. The same is true for elephants and their tusks.
One major difference between elephants and humans is that most elephants cannot survive without their tusks. One reason poachers typically kill elephants for their tusks is that it’s difficult to tranquilize and remove a tusk on a live elephant. If an elephant were to lose their tusk while alive, the nerve, blood tissue, and pulp of the tusk would be exposed and be open to deadly infections and painful death.
The largest known elephant tusks are the Kilimanjaro tusks, currently owned by the British Museum, which are more than ten feet long and each weighing about 200 pounds each. These days, most elephants have much shorter tusks. The “great tusker” gene has been selected against by hundreds of years of ivory hunting, so relatively few elephants grow large tusks these days.
An Important Lesson from Elephant Teeth And Your Oral Health
Other than their tusks, all elephant teeth are molars or premolars. It’s partly the teeth that distinguish Asian and African elephants. Asian elephants have very flat teeth with ridges on them. They work by grinding food between them in a forward and back motion. African elephants have teeth that have raised sections and sloped sides to their teeth.
Like humans, elephants have a limited number of teeth. Over the course of its life, an elephant will have six sets of teeth. The first two are present at birth. As each set of teeth wears out, it breaks off and is replaced by a new set. The last set of teeth emerges at age 30 and is lost about age 65. Once it loses its last set of teeth, an elephant will slowly starve to death, and this is one of the most common causes of natural death among elephants in the wild.
The elephant reminds us that a long, healthy life depends on healthy teeth. Humans only have two sets of teeth, and although dental implants have been called our third set of teeth and dentures can help, once we lose our teeth, we suffer a diminished quality of life.
Tips To Preserve Your Oral Health Longer
Unlike elephants, humans have access to dentists and oral healthcare products to extend the lifespan of their teeth. Extending the lifespan of your teeth through good oral health can improve your quality of life as well as your overall health.
If you’re searching for ways to preserve your teeth longer, we encourage you to follow our tips.
Brush and Floss Regularly
Elephants don’t have the option to brush with toothpaste. Humans, however, do. Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day to remove bacteria and plaque from the mouth. It’s also essential to floss to help remove bacteria and plaque from beneath the gum line and between teeth in hard-to-reach areas, and of course, use mouthwash. If you don’t follow these basic steps, you’re more likely to experience gum disease and cavities.
Visit Your Spokane Dentist Regularly
Once again, most elephants don’t get regular dental care unless they live at a wildlife sanctuary or a zoo. If they get a cavity or experience a dental problem, they’re on their own. However, humans should visit their dentist twice a year for dental cleanings and exams. These appointments not only help prevent dental problems, but they help catch problems early before they cause serious damage.
Eat a Balanced Diet and Handle With Care
One factor that really separates human teeth from elephant teeth is that humans have a wider range of food options. Of course, this means humans can indulge in lots of sugary and starchy food that leads to cavities. Elephants, on the other hand, eat a consistent diet of grasses, fruit, roots, and bark. They don’t have candy and soda to rot their teeth. Instead of cavities and gum disease, elephants typically lose their teeth to damage.
With that said, it’s incredibly important for humans to eat a balanced diet and minimize excess sugar intake. It’s also important to remember that teeth are for eating, not for opening packages or biting nails. When teeth are used for tools, they can easily damage.
Book Your Next Appointment With Your Spokane Dentist
At Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics, we can help you keep your teeth healthy for a long life. Even if your teeth are unhealthy, we can help restore them back to health or replace them if necessary. You don’t have to live a toothless life. If you are overdue for an appointment, please call (509) 532-1111 to book an appointment at our Spokane dental office today.