As human beings, we have advantages that no other living creatures do – besides the pleasures of pizza, music, and games – we have access to great orthodontic care. That means we may always benefit from a strong, healthy bite and smile. Even our domestic companions like dogs and cats have minimal orthodontic resources. Their treatments are usually limited to addressing trauma.
But some animals, through the inequities of evolution, have really gotten the weirder end of the stick when it comes to malocclusion.
A wild member of the pig family, babirusas are infamous for their intimidating-looking upper canines found in males. Both sets of canines are formidable, but the uppers grow backwards towards the animal’s skull in a graceful curve, and are primarily used when scuffling with other males.
Do teeth that grow in unsuspecting parts of the body count as misalignment? If so, orthodontists would be hard-pressed to fix the smile of a Dragonfish, a fish that grows teeth on its tongue, in addition to a conventional set. The teeth aid in catching prey, and dragonfish probably don’t feel self conscious; they live in deep water and are almost completely blind.
A lot of fish tend to have unusual teeth, when they have them. Besides the Dragonfish, there’s the Sheepshead, who has a second row of teeth growing on the roof of its mouth. Because this North America fish commonly eats shellfish, it extra row of teeth are used to crush the hard shells.
Alligators and Crocodiles
These aquatic reptiles are wildly successful species – after all they’ve been around since the dinosaurs. Could one of the keys to their success be great teeth? Possibly. Neither species waits around for dental care, though – like sharks, alligators and crocodiles replace their teeth with new, sharp ones throughout their lifetime. They are estimated to go through over 3,000 teeth in the course of their lives!
Dolphin teeth look pretty ordinary for a marine predator of their caliber, but they have a secret. Dolphin teeth actually have rings – just like trees do – that show the age of the dolphin. If you cut a dolphin tooth in half, you can count the rings and know about how old that dolphin is.
This unassuming little deer grows two huge fangs! Also know as the “vampire deer,” the male musk deer uses its fangs against other males, in tussles for the hand of the beautiful female musk deer, who is not endowed with a set of fangs. Despite their somewhat bloodthirsty appearance, these tiny deer herbivores are quite shy.
Unlike your friends in the animal kingdom, we humans have the option of orthodontic care!