Why do we have to keep our teeth clean whereas other animals do not?

As a child, you were told by our parents to brush your teeth at least twice a day, add some few flowing sessions, and gargle mouthwashes here and there. Of course, all efforts gears towards protecting your teeth and so you don’t end up toothless on your 60th birthday or worse, at an earlier age.

But, how about your dogs, cats, or other animals? Have you ever wondered why don’t they need to clean their teeth? It is undoubtedly envious seeing them not having to devote much attention to care for their teeth.

To better understand why our furry friends and other animal pals don’t brush their teeth, it is imperative to know first why we have to clean ours. It boils down to the different food we consume, which are a blend of both healthy and unhealthy substances. So, to protect our teeth from the ‘bad’ stuff that we drink or eat, which is quite challenging to do, we need to brush our teeth instead.

For instance, tooth decay is an example of gradual tooth loss. It occurs when acids forms on the teeth as a by-product of the germs that live on our mouth. These bacteria feast on the carbohydrates that we eat, which compose a massive chunk of our daily diet. The said acids then damage or eat away teeth, causing tooth decay.

Truth to be told, some animals clean between their teeth to avoid tooth decay. For instance, crocodiles allow Egyptian Plover birds to clean their teeth for them. After a meal, they would open their mouth so the birds would be able to pick out any leftover flesh, which could be a cause of infection or other problems.

On the other hand, Macaque monkeys love to floss. It is a practice passed to them by their mothers, who showed them how to do so using thorough, exaggerated movements. These monkeys are known to pull hair from humans and use twigs or coconut fibers to floss.

So, do other animals clean their teeth? Well, most animals don’t need to, especially in the wild. These animals thrive on raw foods and drink water. They aren’t exposed to processed foods or refined sugar, as humans do. Animals in the wild much on vegetables, bugs, insects, animal meat, and berries, which means they do not need to pay attention to oral care at all.

Meanwhile, cows and other grass-eating animals have a diet rich in fiber. They chew and chew and chew to break it down and for them to digest it. Through that, they are able to clean their teeth in the process naturally.

Canines like dogs, cats, or their bigger counterparts, such as wolves, lions, and tigers, have saliva that is blessed with a higher level of pH. It works great in protecting their enamel from demineralization and formation of cavities.

Then, most animals also have shorter livers compared to humans, which means their teeth can outlast them. If you have a life span of 15, 25, or 30 years, you won’t suffer much from tooth decay as it takes years for the acids to eventually destroy the enamel that covers and protects the teeth.

However, some animals are more fortunate than us. For instance, sharks can quickly grow a new tooth as one falls out. They can shed around 35,000 teeth throughout their lifetime. Mice, rats, and beavers have teeth that never halt growing. In contrast, their continuous gnawing activities constantly wears down the teeth.

Our ancestors, the pre-historic humans, didn’t have to deal with many of the dental problems that we have today. But, as the human diet shifted to natural and raw products to processed and refined ones, the types of bacteria in our mouth also did. Consequently, we now have to devote effort and attention to our oral health at all times.

More Readings:

Animal Tooth Development (Wikipedia)

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