Lion teeth with mouth wide open. Clean and fresh

Why Don’t Animals (Have To) Brush Their Teeth? 8 Amazing Facts

In Fun Facts by Morten Storgaard

We all know that it is important to brush the teeth in the morning and evening every day. Right? But what about animals, do they not need to brush their teeth?

Do animals need to brush their teeth? No. Wild animals eat raw food that doesn’t contain refined sugar an hasn’t been processed. This type of diet is better for the teeth. Also, most animals don’t live as long as humans so their teeth don’t have to last as long either.

But there are also animals that live longer than humans and we have pets who eat processed food.

So let’s dig into the answer in more detail because there are some amazing facts to be discovered about animal’s teeth and how they manage to keep them healthy.

Let’s start off by looking at the most common reasons (most) animals don’t have to think about dental hygiene.

4 Reasons Wild Animals Don’t Need To Brush Their Teeth

Joke sheep can't handle the truth

1) They eat raw food and drink water

We, humans, eat a lot of processed food which contains refined sugar. That’s the primary reason why our teeth will not last long if we don’t clean them well on a daily basis.

But animals in the wild do not eat processed food. They don’t eat any refined sugar either.

They eat whatever they can find in nature like berries, vegetables, animal meat, insects, bugs, water etc. This means that they do not need to think about dental care at all.

When humans eat sugar it affects theĀ enamel on the teeth. It is weakened and if the teeth are not cleaned regularly it will lead to a cavity. This, however, is a problem related to sugar reacting to the acids in your mouth and when you cut out the refined sugar (like animals) you don’t have these problems.

This is also part of the answer why you DO need to think about dental care for your pets. But now we are getting ahead of ourselves…

2) Some animals continually grow new teeth

Sharks are the silent predator of the sea. It has special scales that are silent

Other animals have a very cool feature when it comes to their teeth.

They simply grow new teeth continually!

This is true for some predators like sharks.

Sharks will grow new teeth all the time because their teeth get worn pretty quickly. This is because they constantly eat and chew on stuff like bones and other hard materials.

One particular type of sharks is called “Carcharhiniformes”. They are the largest type of sharks and they count over 250 species.

They can shed over 35,000 teeth in a lifetime! As soon as one falls out a new one will grow out.

Some of the shark’s teeth are pointy like needles and others are triangular and can cut almost through anything. The largest tooth in the shark world to have ever lived is the size of a hand. Here’s a picture of it in case you are not scared already:

Enormous shark tooth

But don’t be afraid to meet these guys when you are out swimming because they have gone extinct a long time ago.

3) They have a shorter life span

Most other animals live short lives compared to humans. This also means that their teeth do not need to last as long as ours.

It’s not that hard to keep your teeth for 30 or 40 years compared to the human lifespan of around 71 years (in general).

My Grandma turned 105, and she had fake teeth for the last 45 years of her life. She didn’t brush her teeth either because she lived in a time and age where people didn’t know about tooth brushing yet.

Here’s a list of how long some animals live:

  • Dogs: 13 years
  • Cats: 13 years
  • Tigers: 25 years
  • Horses: 26 years
  • Zebra: 28 years
  • Blue Whales: 35 years
  • Carbs (fish): 50 years
  • Alligators: 55 years
  • Chimpanzees: 60 years

When your lifespan is 20, 30, or 40 years you won’t suffer as much from tooth decay. Simply because it takes many years for the acids to break down the enamel that protects the teeth.

You can go here to read more about why humans live longer than animals. It’s quite interesting really. There’s also a much longer list of several animal’s lifespans.

4) Canines have special saliva

Wild animal showing off long teeth

Canines like dogs, wolves, Lions, Tigers and other large cats have a higher level of pH in their saliva.

This help they keep the enamel at the door.

The saliva of dogs is around 8,5 pH and the human saliva is around 7,5. This helps the animal to keep cavities away because of the alkalinity. It breaks down the acids which cause cavities.

This is also part of the reason dog’s will lick their wounds.

The saliva has a cleaning effect and helps the dog keep bacteria away.

Which Animals Do Clean Their Teeth?

Cow with clean teeth from eating grass all day.

While you won’t find any animals with a toothbrush and toothpaste on the shelf we do find animals with routines for dental hygiene and ways of keeping them clean.

1) Cows will clean their teeth (while chewing)

Some animals will eat food that will remove food from between the teeth as they chew. Other animals will chew their food for a really long time in order to be able to digest the food.

These practices help them keep the teeth clean and fine.

A good example is cows.

They chew and chew and chew (as you might have noticed). After some time, the grass in their mouth will have been everywhere in the mouth and it helps the cow to get rid of old food between the teeth.

Much like dental floss.

2) Big cats will also clean their teeth unknowingly

Lion teeth with mouth wide open. Clean and fresh

Other wild animals will eat bones and hair from their prey.

The bones will splinter and work like toothpicks and the hair will get in everywhere and loosen the food that is getting stuck.

These are animals like Lions, Tigers, Panthers, and other large cats with long teeth and several canines (large teeth).

3) Elephants will clean their incisors

Elephants have huge teeth-like incisors (tusks) which they use for many purposes.

In order to keep them clean, they will rub them against trees and use the trees like toothbrushes.

Some biologists believe that the males will keep their incisors clean in order to impress the females. This is not very different from humans and a funny and remarkable behavior to find in the animal kingdom.

Elephants will also grow new incisors over time and they keep growing as the animals get older. Eventually, they will stop growing and the elephant will have to do with what is left.

4) Birds clean the Crocodiles teeth

Crocodile with long teeth looking wild

This is the coolest and cutes collaboration.

The Crocodile will eat first and when it is done the little birds will pick out all the remains from between the teeth.

This is a wonderful routine that benefits both species.

The Crocodiles will have clean teeth at the end of the session and the birds get an easy ready-served meal.

These little birds are called Egyptian Plover birds and they will literally sit on the mouth/teeth and pick out every little bit of flesh. They get a good deal of proteins and the crocodile will get rid of the left-overs that otherwise could cause infections and create problems for it.

Do Pets Need To Get Their Teeth Brushed?

Yes.

Some pets need you to clean their teeth.

Or at least you need to think about dental care in some way for a list of pets.

Golden Retriever with beautiful clean teeth just cleaned

Feed them correctly

But first and foremost, they need you to pay attention to what you feed them.

Animals are meant to eat raw food without sugar and flavors. These are things we humans have invented and they are no good for our animal friends. They need food similar to what their cousins in the wild will eat.

So pay close attention to what you feed your pet because it will determine whether they will have great delta hygiene or if their teeth will decay much too fast.

But, as mentioned above, some of our pets will need you to do a bit of brushing or at least check their teeth once in a while.

These Pets Need YOU To Brush Their Teeth

Even though animals have impressive ways of keeping tooth decay away you might need to help your pet with dental care.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite pets who need you to help them.

Dogs and cats

Dogs and cats will often get dental problems if you don’t pay close attention to their teeth and diet.

I used to take care of a service dog and part of the routine was to brush its teeth a couple of times each week.

We did so with a rough cloth which was specially designed to rub off the coating on the teeth that builds up over time.

You can also give your dog or pet Dentastix or similar hard items that will help them remove the coating and the tartar that will build upon the teeth.

Horses

Horse with very ugly teeth needs a toothbrush

You have probably seen old horses with very ugly teeth. This often happens when the owner hasn’t taken good care of them.

Horses will get around 20-30 years old and that’s plenty of time for them to get bad teeth.

So you need to pay attention to the condition of the teeth on your horse. The two jaws are not equally wide and that causes the animal to chew inefficiently. So the food will often get stuck in between two teeth and it can stay there for a long time if you don’t help it.

It’s always a good idea to have a veterinarian examine the horse in order to see how the bite working according to dental issues.

Some horses need more regular attention and care in order to make sure they don’t suffer from dental problems. You might also need to adjust the feed accordingly.

Hippo with open mouth showing off teeth

Sources: nih.gov

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