Most animals have teeth. Very popular pets like dogs and cats are known to bare their teeth now and then. But how about the reptilian likes of snakes, lizards, and turtles? Do reptiles have teeth at all?
The generality of reptiles has teeth, except turtles. Reptiles commonly have three types of teeth. These are the acrodont, pleurodont, and thecodont teeth. The uniformity in reptile dentition exceeds that of mammals. These teeth are shaped as cones and are rarely firmly attached (as in humans). Most reptiles have their teeth dedicated to chewing.
Reptilian dentition is a fascinating subject. There are more questions below the surface for which you could be drooling for answers. For example, how many teeth do reptiles have? Do reptiles have baby teeth at all? Also, can reptiles regrow their teeth?
Let us answer each of these questions extensively.
What Types of Teeth Do Reptiles Have?
Reptiles have three major types of dental formation. These teeth types include the acrodont, pleurodont and thecodont teeth.
The acrodont is fundamentally weak. Here is why.
Instead of being strongly infused into the jaw, acrodont teeth are lightly attached to the jaw bone. This makes them the weakest type of reptile dental formation, with significant vulnerability to breakage if force is applied.
Acrodont teeth are more vulnerable to being infected with fungi and bacteria. It is not rare to see reptiles with acrodont dental formation experience related infections like mouth rot.
The acrodont teeth formation is most prominent in lizards like chameleons, bearded dragons, and frilled dragons.
When feeding reptiles with this type of teeth, you must be very careful not to break their teeth.
Pleurodont teeth – just like acrodont teeth – are not firmly attached to the reptile’s jaws. But unlike the acrodont, the pleurodont teeth in reptiles are stably infused into the jaw’s interior.
Thanks to this, pleurodont teeth in reptiles are firmer than acrodonts. They have more stable roots and are known for their tendency to grow again into the same destination when removed.
The pleurodont barely remains the same through a reptile’s lifespan. The pleurodont is perpetually changing as the reptile matures and the teeth develop.
This type of dental formation is more common in geckos, iguana subspecies, and caiman lizards. Lizards notably have acrodont and pleurodont teeth.
The pleurodont’s shape is often peculiar to the reptile in question. For example, pleurodont teeth in caiman lizards are rounder with flattened edges.
Thecodont teeth are luxuries among reptiles. They tend to be more exclusive to daring reptiles like crocodiles.
Thecodont teeth are fearsomely powerful and are responsible for the sheer biting force of the crocodile. This is core to sustaining the carnivorous lifestyle of crocodiles.
Thecodont teeth are rooted in sockets deeply installed in the crocodile’s jaw bone. They are so strong that it takes remarkably high force to distort them – or even break them.
Interestingly, the thecodont teeth are constantly regrowing, especially during the crocodile’s most active life stages. As the crocodile gets way older, the thecodont teeth don’t get rapidly replaced as before when they were younger.
Aside from its distinction in strength, thecodont teeth also differ from the acrodont and pleurodont in uniformity.
Crocodiles are among the extremely few reptiles with non-uniform teeth. A daring peek into the mouth of a crocodile would reveal teeth of varying sizes and shapes.
The lack of uniformity also contributes to the stability and power of the crocodile’s teeth. Being non-uniform, the crocodile’s teeth – compared to most reptiles – are further decked with additional muscle.
Do Reptiles Have Baby Teeth?
As characteristic of vertebrates, reptilian teeth change as the reptile ages. Baby teeth are more common in reptiles with pleurodont dental formation. This sect sheds its teeth as they mature.
How Many Teeth Do Reptiles Have?
The number of teeth varies across reptiles. Starting with snakes, their dental formation (and number) differs with the species.
The King cobra barely has more than 100 teeth. But it is even way more in species like boa constrictors, who have up to 200 teeth.
Lizards commonly start with around 30 teeth. But as they grow, some species develop as many as 60 teeth.
The same variation occurs in crocodiles. Crocodile species like the Dwarf Crocodile have about 60 teeth.
Saltwater crocodiles have up to 66 teeth. But the Gharial crocodile takes the number up, counting up to 110.
What Reptiles Don’t Have Teeth?
Turtles are the most renowned reptilian species to have zero teeth. Just like land tortoises, sea turtles tend to grow serrated keratin spikes. This contributes to their bite force.
The lack of teeth is well suited to the herbivorous diet of most turtles. Most tortoises feed on plants and generally soft foliage.
Therefore, they don’t have much chewing to do, unlike the carnivorous clan of crocodiles.
Turtles don’t hunt and violently kill to eat either. So the need for dental sharpness is not pronounced.
When turtles need to cut their food, they leverage the edges of their keratinous mouths. This is common when turtles need to grind their food to facilitate assimilation.
Yes, we have established that turtles don’t have teeth. But don’t carelessly put your hands into their mouths. The keratinous edges in their mouth can still harm you.
Do Reptiles Lose Their Teeth?
Yes, reptiles lose their teeth as they mature. Teeth loss is more predominant in reptiles with pleurodont and thecodont dental formation.
Can Reptiles Regrow Teeth?
Not all reptiles lose their teeth and regrow them. Teeth replacement is dependent on the type of teeth that was lost.
Only pleurodont and thecodont teeth can regrow as established. Any loss in acrodont teeth in reptiles (say violent removal) tend to be permanent, with no regrowth.
In rare cases, acrodont teeth that wear can have new ones grow in their place.
Snakes, lizards, and crocodiles regularly lose their teeth and regrow them provided the reptile has not gotten too old.
Chameleons are one of the few reptiles whose teeth never regrow once lost. When a chameleon is born, it comes with a unique set of teeth that it retains throughout its lifespan.
Should you have a pet chameleon and notice it losing teeth, this is not natural. The chances are high that your chameleon is ill and should get urgent veterinary attention.
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