EleFact Friday: More on Teeth

Earlier this week, we shared a video of Guillermina getting a dental exam that showed a pretty decent look at her teeth (and her tongue). We received quite a few questions about elephant teeth since then, and we have shared about teeth before in previous EleFACTS, but today we wanted to revisit the fascinating subject of the elephant dental world. 

As you may have seen in Guille’s mouth, elephants have four molars at one time, but will go through six sets of those in a lifetime. Each set will last about ten years, with the exception of the final one, which will remain until completely worn down and then no more will grow back in their place. When calves are born, they have milk teeth and four small molars, with the milk teeth and molars to be replaced by adult sets when they are roughly two years old. The molars grow in from the back of the elephant’s mouth as opposed from the top and bottom jaws like human teeth. There is one tooth for each quadrant that moves towards the front and is replaced when worn down. The teeth themselves are quite large: they are about the size of a brick and can weigh around four to five pounds. 

As you may have seen in the video, the molar teeth are covered in textured ridges, which help to break down plant material. In African elephants, the ridges are diamond shaped, while Asian elephants have more cylindrical-shaped ridges. African teeth are ‘loxadont’ which are sloped, named after the species scientific name Africana Loxadonta. Asian elephant teeth are adapted to the elephant’s diet of grasses, trees, shrubs and bark and work by moving in a forward and backward motion to better help grind down plant material.

Photo of Rana


  1. REPLY
    Melinda says

    So informative, thank you!

  2. REPLY
    Eileen L. says

    Appreciate learning about all of these things! Thanks!

  3. REPLY
    Barb says

    You can never overdo our lessons! Seriously, thank you for teaching us EleFACTS! Anytime!

  4. REPLY
    Heather Parsons says

    I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about elephants and your concise explanation is excellent.
    I recently watched a video about ‘Jumbo’ the famous London Zoo African elephant (which was subsequently sold to Barnum Circus) and it is a heartbreaking story. But, now they realise that part of his reason for being unpredictable was that he had terrible dental problems. His teeth were positioned in his head, which caused dental cavities to fill with food. Plus he was fed a very poor diet of cream buns and a lot of alcohol 🍺. It is due to the pain that he broke his tusks off in his nighttime holding enclosure and ground the protruding tips off as the tusks grew. Such a very sad story.

  5. REPLY
    Melinda says

    What an incredibly heartbreaking story. I don’t think I can bear watching that show. The horrors that humans inflict on other sentient beings is just pure evil.

  6. REPLY
    Susy says

    Gracias.. excelente explicación. Saber cada vez más sobre elefantes es fascinante. Bonito fin de semana.

  7. REPLY
    Terry says

    So fascinating and informative! Wow. Thanks!

  8. REPLY
    christine says

    Merci pour tous ces renseignements.

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