Are you looking for fun ways to talk to your kids about oral health and their baby teeth? On this National Trivia Day, the Tooth Fairy wants to take some time out of their busy schedule to share some fun tooth-related facts with you!
Our world is full of all types of animals, each with teeth of different shapes and sizes. All those teeth keep the Tooth Fairy very busy!
There are many different types of teeth in the animal kingdom that each have different purposes. There are sharp, pointy teeth for carnivores, and flat, strong teeth for herbivores. Other teeth, like super long tusks, are primarily used as tools.
Carnivores are meat-eating predators, so they need sharp teeth to catch and hold on to their prey. The pointy teeth of carnivores also help tear into the food they are eating. A wolf needs large canines when hunting to catch and hold onto its prey. Household dogs and puppies have these too because they are descendants of wolves. Humans also have canine teeth! Although smaller, you can feel your canines on either side of your four front teeth, also known as incisors. Humans possess pointy teeth like canines because meat is a large part of most diets.
Herbivores, animals which eat only plants, have no reason to possess pointy teeth. Instead, herbivores have strong, flat teeth to help them chew leafy material. Think of a cow or a giraffe -- both are different animals, but since they are both herbivores, they have very similar teeth! In humans, these teeth are called molars. They help grind and chew food so it's easy to swallow. Humans have flat teeth because they eat both plant and animal material.
Omnivores are animals that eat both meat and plants. Humans, bears, and gorillas are all types of omnivores. Omnivores have different types of teeth suited for each kind of food they eat. Omnivores have teeth similar to both carnivores and herbivores that help hold, tear, and chew their food.
While humans and wild animals share some similarities, the way teeth are used, look, and grow can be quite different.
Sharks may be one of the first animals that come to mind when you think of teeth. Sharks are known for their multiple sets of razor-sharp teeth which they use to catch their prey. When you look in the mouth of a shark, they don’t look the same as humans, but did you know they don't grow the same either? Unlike humans, who grow a set of baby teeth after they’re born, all sharks are born with their adult teeth. Sharks also lose their teeth more often than humans because their teeth are connected by ligaments rather than a root. This causes a shark to lose about one tooth per week! That’s ok though because they have between 50 and 300 teeth depending on the type of shark!
In the chilly waters of the Arctic, there is a toothed whale which looks like it came straight out of a storybook. The narwhal is one of the strangest creatures on earth due to a massive spiral tooth which sticks out of its head! That's right, the long spike coming out of a narwhal’s head is a large tooth! The tooth of the “unicorn of the sea” is still a mystery to many researchers. Many scientists have ideas, but nobody knows what it's used for! One thing that is known is the tooth of the narwhal is extremely sensitive. With 10 million nerve endings inside its elongated tooth, a narwhal can feel temperature changes in water similar to how a human tooth feels biting into something cold.
The average human incisors, our front teeth, are about 16mm. Could you imagine having front teeth that are even one inch long? How about front teeth which are more than a foot long? That would be a lot of brushing every morning and night! Luckily humans don't have to worry about that, as our teeth eventually stop growing. Rodents, however, have teeth that never stop growing! Rodents such as beavers, mice, and rabbits, must gnaw on hard substances to keep their teeth from getting too long.
Isn’t tooth trivia fascinating? It is amazing how human and animal teeth can be so similar, yet so different at the same time. While the animals on this trivia list have different ways of caring for their teeth, we humans have to make sure we take care of ours too!
So, make sure you and your kiddos are taking care of your amazing teeth by brushing for two minutes twice daily, flossing once a day, and visiting the dentist regularly. Maybe even share some of these fun facts with your dentist when you go in for your check-up!
Looking for more fun activities to keep your child on top of their oral health? Check out our Parents Resources page for activities sheets, books, and more!