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Elephants are among the largest animals on the planet, so it stands to reason that their teeth would be substantial in size. You wouldn’t be able to see them, though, just by staring at an elephant! They initially seem toothless, save for their enormous tusks. Do elephants have teeth? The answer is Yes.

Elephants are still hunted for their magnificent tusks, which are well known for them. But since we can’t see their other teeth, we don’t really give them much thought. However, their back teeth are also unique and vital to their survival and health.

Here, we’ll examine elephant dentition in more detail.

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Elephant Tusks Are Teeth!

Elephant tusks, which extend from either side of their trunk, are the most noticeable teeth. Elephant tusks, in contrast to narwhal tusks, are basically your teeth, only bigger. A small percentage of Asian elephants develop “tushes,” or tusks without pulp, which are referred to as “trustlessness,” or tusks, in place of their usual tusks.

Human-like pulp, blood, and nerves make up one-third of an elephant’s tooth. Dentin, a dense substance also present in human teeth, makes up the portion of an elephant tusk that is visible as ivory. Elephant tusks are actually enormous incisors that grow to remarkable sizes, despite the fact that many tusks are canines. The elephant determines how remarkable.

Every elephant has a different set of tusks, just like every human has a different set of teeth that no other human will ever have. You can easily see that every set of teeth differs in appearance if you try to identify someone based solely on their teeth. Elephants and their tusks are no different.

The fact that most elephants cannot survive without their tusks is one of the most significant differences between elephants and humans. Tusk removal from a live elephant can be challenging, which is one reason why poachers usually kill elephants for their tusks. If an elephant lost their tusk while still alive, the exposed nerve, blood tissue, and pulp would be vulnerable to fatal infections and a torturous demise.


Elephant Teeth – Molars

  • An herbivore is an elephant. They require their really large, powerful, ridged back teeth because they chew vegetation for 22 hours per day.
  • Elephants only have four teeth in total, including two tusks (if they have them).  Elephant molars develop from the back of the jaw, whereas human teeth develop either upwards or downwards from the jawbone. Each quadrant has one tooth, which moves toward the front and is replaced when it becomes worn.
  • Six sets of four molars will grow in an elephant’s mouth over the course of its lifetime. It’s possible for an elephant to have seven sets once in a while.
  • Every time the teeth are replaced, the new set is larger. An elephant molar can be 4 kg and 20 cm long.
  • An elephant may suffer from malnutrition if it survives for a very long time and uses all of its teeth.

Different Kinds of Teeth Elephants Have

Diet is the primary factor in determining the size, shape, and number of teeth in an animal. After all, different types of teeth are required for different types of food by animals. Canines are designed to tear through meat and flesh, while flat teeth like molars are best for chopping up plant matter. 

Except for the occasional insect or bird’s egg they accidentally ingest while munching on copious amounts of plant material, elephants are solely herbivorous. Given this knowledge, it should come as no surprise that modern elephants only have molar and premolar teeth (aside from their tusks, which are actually modified incisors; more on that later!).). 

Unlike human teeth, which emerge from the top and bottom jaws, an elephant’s molars grow in from the back of the mouth. Their molars and premolars are obviously enormous! The size and shape of brick would be a good comparison for a tooth, which weighs about 4.5 pounds. 

Elephants’ molars also feature textured ridges that aid in furthering the breakdown of plant matter. The molar ridges of Asian elephants are more cylindrical in shape than those of African elephants, which have diamond-shaped ridges. 

Quantity Of Teeth That Elephants Have

Elephants from both Africa and Asia have a total of 26 teeth at any given time. 12 of their teeth are wide, flat molars, and 12 are slightly narrower and more pointed premolars. Their tusks are actually their two remaining teeth!

A baby elephant’s milk teeth and four tiny molars are all they have at birth. The elephant’s milk teeth, also referred to as “baby tusks,” are eventually replaced by an adult set when the animal is about two years old. At roughly the same age, the molars are also replaced by an adult set.

Elephants consume enormous quantities of leaves, grasses, fruits, and branches over the course of their 16 to 20-hour daily feeding schedules, which is why their teeth are constantly being worn down. As a result, fresh teeth are constantly coming in to replace the old ones. A new molar or premolar grows in from the back to replace any worn-down or lost teeth.

This process allows elephants to go through a total of six sets of teeth in their lifetime. About 150 teeth, to be exact!

Is It Right That Elephants Occasionally Lose Their Teeth?

The teeth of an elephant continue to grow, in part, throughout its lifetime. Elephants have six sets of teeth, and once they have used them all, no more will erupt. 

That should be more than enough teeth for the majority of elephants to survive their lengthy lifespans. For older elephants (60–70 years), tooth loss is the main cause of death. Elephants are unable to chew and properly digest food without their molar teeth. Therefore, sometimes having six sets of teeth is insufficient.

Also, an elephant’s lifetime tusk supply is limited to one pair. Tusks are constantly growing, but heavy use over time can cause a variety of damage. An elephant’s ability to access the enormous amounts of plant matter it needs to survive is greatly reduced if its tusks are damaged or stolen by poachers, making it far more susceptible to attack.

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