The teeth of an elephant

How Many Teeth Do Elephants have?

Elephants are the largest land mammal in the world and one of the fascinating animals on earth. Most probably, you will never see an elephant’s teeth up close. The below can help you understand the teeth of an elephant and answer your question.

Elephants have a total of 26 teeth: two incisors, which are the tusks, plus 12 premolars and 12 molars. An elephant can go through six sets of replacement molars throughout its life.

Elephant Teeth Facts

Asian Elephants

Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant
  • Asian elephants have smaller tusks than African elephants.
  • Males tusks are bigger than females.
  • They have perfect flat teeth perfect for chewing vegetation.
  • Elephants are polyphyodonts mammals and replace teeth many times throughout their lives.
  • Asia elephants have long cylindrical ridges on their teeth.
  • Tusks are worn down throughout their life depending on if they prefer to use the right or left tusk. Just like us humans being left or right-handed. 

African Elephants

African Elephant
African Elephant
  • African elephants have bigger tusks than Asian elephants.
  • Males tusks are bigger than females.
  • They have perfect flat teeth perfect for chewing vegetation.
  • Elephants are polyphyodonts mammals and replace teeth many times throughout their lives.
  • African elephants have diamond-shaped ridges on their teeth.
  • Tusks are worn down throughout their life depending on if they prefer to use the right or left tusk. Just like us humans being left or right-handed.

Tusks (incisors)

Playfighting with their tusks

Tusks are used for defence, digging, carrying and lifting. They are just like giant teeth, and they have a nerve that runs two-thirds of them, just like a regular tooth. Baby elephants have temporary tusks when born and will replace them at around 13 months old with their permanent tusks. Tusks are an off white colour and made of dentine, a hard, dense, bony tissue. The tusk is then wrapped in a hard enamel. 

The unfortunate thing is that poachers remove the tusks of an elephant for their ivory. Considering how family originated elephants are, this behaviour is one of the most terrible things imaginable for a herd of elephants to go through.

Do elephant tusks grow back?

No, once the tusk is broken, damaged or removed, it will not ever grow back.

How much do elephant tusks weigh?

  • Male tusks: between 50-79 kg (110-175 lb)
  • Female tusks: between 18-20 kg (40-44 lb)

Animals With Tusks Today

  • Elephants
  • Hippotamus
  • Narwhal
  • Walrus
  • Warthog
  • Wild pig

Which extinct animals had tusks?

  • Mammoths
  • Mastodons
  • Amebelodon

Why do animals have tusks?

Animals have tusks for many reasons. They use them to show dominance, defend themselves against attackers, and as tools such as digging and gathering food. Elephants use their tusks for these purposes, while walruses use their tusk to haul themselves out of the ice.

How much does a single elephant tooth weigh?

  • A single tooth can weigh between 1.8-2.0 kg (4-4.5 lb)

What do elephants teeth look like?

The teeth of an elephant are wide and flat shaped. Depending on which type of elephant, they will have diamond-shaped ridges or long cylindrical ridges on their molars. The teeth of an elephant are an off white colour.

Do elephants get cavities?

No, not often because they dont eat a high sugar diet, however, the teeth of an elephant will get grinded down with use, and in this case, they will fall out or be pushed out and get replaced by a new tooth with their unique dentition system.

Polyphyodont Meaning

A polyphyodont is an animal that can replace teeth within the mouth continuously. The elephant’s teeth are roughly replaced six times throughout their life.

Polyphyodont Mammals

Most mammals are diphyodonts; however, the below mammals are an exception.

  • Elephants
  • Kangaroos
  • Manatees

If you’ve never seen an elephant in person, it might be hard to imagine that they have a total of 26 teeth. They also use their tusks for more than just defence. But not many people know the other uses these impressive mammals put their tusks to or how important they are to elephants overall health. Thanks to the unique dentition system, elephants can grow back lost or damaged molar teeth with no problem. Replacing teeth happens roughly six times in an elephants lifetime.

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