These Animals Have Multiple Sets of Teeth

Humans have what’s known as diphyodont dentition: we grow a single set of 28-32 replacement teeth in a process that begins around six years of age and lasts until the wisdom teeth emerge between 17-25 years old. Our first set of 20 teeth, our baby teeth, begin emerging around 6 months, finish growing in by 3 years old, and start falling out around 6 years old when our permanent teeth are ready to grow in. Have you ever wondered if there are animals that have more than 2 sets of teeth? This may seem like something out of science fiction, but it’s relatively common in the animal kingdom! Let’s get to know some of the animals that have multiple sets of teeth.

Mammalian Exceptions

Most mammals have either diphyodont dentition (two sets of teeth) or monophyodont dentition (only one set of teeth), but there are a few exceptions. Elephants, kangaroos, and manatees have multiple sets of teeth that grow in the back of their mouth and migrate forward as their front teeth fall out. For example, most elephants have 6 sets of molars, with the last set emerging around 30 years old. Rodents and rabbits are another unique case. Their incisors grow continuously so they require regular gnawing to keep their teeth at a healthy length.

A herd of elephants with regenerating teeth graze on a green grassland

Toothed Fish

Toothed fish like sharks are known as polyphyodonts, animals that have multiple sets of replacement teeth. Their tooth replacement process occurs in sort of a wave pattern: from the back of the jaw forward. The average replacement rate is every few months.

Certain Reptiles

While not all reptiles have teeth, those that do are polyphyodonts. Alligators, for example, grow their teeth in sets of threes. This includes a current tooth, a replacement tooth in waiting, and a stem cell that can regrow another replacement tooth if necessary. This process can repeat throughout the lifetime of the animal.

Alligator with regenerating teeth in North Myrtle Beach sits on a grassy patch by a pool of water

Do You Have Missing Teeth?

Humans are primates, and primates generally have more highly specialized cells and fewer stem cells. For this reason, we do not have a stem cell that could regrow a tooth if we needed it to. However, scientists are studying those polyphyodont animals that do regenerate teeth to learn whether this may someday be possible in humans. Until growing a new tooth is a viable and an affordable option, take good care of the teeth you do have and utilize our tooth replacement options at True Dental if you have any missing teeth. We can help you determine whether dentures, dental implants, or bridges are right for your smile. To ask us any questions about treating missing teeth or to schedule a restorative consultation, contact our office today!

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