Your teeth do a lot for you. They help you chew your food to make it easier to swallow and even help you to smile more confidently. It is no different for elephants!
Teeth play a key role in an elephant's health, but it is also why they are poached. Taking the time to learn about why their teeth are so important is one way to support elephants. Here are some basic things you should know about an elephant's teeth.
How many teeth does an elephant have?
Both African elephants and Asian elephants have 26 teeth in total. They have 12 molars, 12 deciduous premolars and two incisors that are known as tusks.
In an elephant’s mouth, there are four molars present at a time. One molar of an elephant can weigh about five pounds that is equivalent to what a brick weighs.
The overall shape of an elephant’s teeth is wide and flat. However, the ridges on the top of the teeth differ with each kind of elephant.
Do elephants lose teeth?
Yes, elephants lose their teeth like humans. Unlike humans, elephants have six sets of molars and have four morals in their mouths at all times. They lose their teeth through time due to wear. As one molar wears out, another one takes its place.
One unique thing about elephants is that their teeth develop from the back and move forward. In contrast, human teeth develop from the top and bottom.
When elephants are born, they have four developing molars. They tend to lose these molars at the age of two. From then, their next set of molars last longer and longer.
Now that you know how many teeth does an elephant have, it’s important to note that losing all of their teeth is dangerous. One of the leading causes of death of older elephants is lack of teeth. Without their teeth, they are unable to chew their foods. This leads to malnutrition and death.
The tusks of an elephant
Many people question whether the tusks of an elephant are their teeth? The answer is yes. An elephant’s tusks are two incisors that protrude from the elephant’s mouth. Their two incisors evolved into tusks over time and gave them a survival advantage.
Both the male and female African elephants have tusks. In Asian elephants, however, only the male elephants have large and prominent tusks. Why does this occur? Well, the male Asian elephants use their tusks to fight for female breeding.
Why are elephants losing their tusks?
For elephants, tusks act almost like hands. They even are either left or right tusked. Their tusks help them gather food and defend themselves from predators. Every day elephants are killed for their tusks.
The World Wildlife Fund states that an average of 55 elephants are killed illegally every day for their tusks. This has led to a decline in elephant populations so much that today African forest elephants and Asian elephants are critically endangered. The African Savanna elephants are endangered.
Poachers want the tusks of elephants for ivory. Their tusks are used to create ivory that is used to create items like jewelry, statutes and piano keys. Although the trade of ivory is illegal, it is still being sold illegally.
How to support elephants
There are many ways to help protect elephants. You can sign petitions and support elephant organizations. At For Elephants, we work with Elephants Alive to help find the best methods for wild elephant conservation. You can support our research by joining the “Herd of Heroes.” Do not forget to also sign-up for our newsletter down below!