Wednesday 14 July 2021

Do tigers lose their teeth because they break over time?

Tigers certainly do lose their teeth especially the canine teeth because they are used so heavily when attacking and holding prey. I am referring to wild tigers in their habitat. I'd expect captive tigers to suffer from teeth breakages less often.

They have four canine teeth, two on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw. The photograph on this page shows all four of these teeth either broken or almost entirely missing. The photo below shows intact canines. 

I've seen lions with pretty well the same problem, missing perhaps one, two or more of their canine teeth through heavy usage.

Broken or badly work tiger teeth
Broken or badly work tiger teeth. Photo: Getty Images.

It must be a hazard for the big cats and it must affect survivability. I'm not saying tigers can't survive with broken canine teeth but it must be harder. Tigers have longer canine teeth than other big cats and in a fully grown tiger they can be nearly 8 cm long (6.4-7.6 cms - 2.5 to 3.0 inches). In addition to breakages, as they get older their teeth become more yellow.

Intact tiger teeth
Intact tiger teeth. Photo in public domain.

In addition to broken teeth often teeth are worn down. A tiger can starve because of bad teeth. Bad teeth may also encourage them to seek easier prey which means they might move closer to human settlements to search for domestic animals. This brings them into contact with people and possible retaliatory attacks which may take their life.

Canines have pressure sensing nerves attached to them which allows the cat to sense the location where the canine is inserted into prey for best effect.

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