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Do Alpacas have teeth? Most Alpaca admirers are confused about whether their favorite animal has teeth or not. Alpaca, being a camelid native to South America, has certain assets that allow them to adapt well to most climates. One of these assets is teeth.
Alpacas on farms have uniquely weird or unusual teeth that most people know little about. Most of the alpaca manuals say little about the animal’s teeth. So, it becomes quite challenging to find out relevant information about this necessary organ.
An alpaca owner has to be better equipped with all the data to keep them in tip-top condition.
Let’s have a closer look at how many teeth alpacas have, the types, and the role each type of teeth has to play.
Do Alpacas Have Teeth?
Yes, alpacas have teeth. This adorable creature has the same number and type of teeth as their cousins, llamas.
Alpacas have 30 to 32 teeth consisting of 6 incisors, 6 fighting teeth, and 18-20 cheek teeth (molars and premolars).
Molars and premolars are present on the upper and lower jaws at the back of the mouth. Incisors are front teeth found on the lower jaw, behind incisors, six fighting teeth are located.
Alpacas and llamas have inherited their specific teeth from their wild ancestors.
Their bizarre dentition has the exact same layout and specialization as the ancient alpaca camelid dating as far back as 25 million years.
Alpacas have molars, incisors, and canines, and their tongue side of the teeth have no or little enamel which indicates continued growth well into adulthood.
As the front teeth of this adorable species grow throughout life, sometimes, the alpaca needs delicate teeth trimming to keep the animal capable of eating.
Owing to the male alpaca’s fighting behavior, their teeth need periodic trimming, dulling, and grinding to repair broken teeth.
All canine teeth are developed on the upper and lower jaw when the alpaca turns four years of age. By the age of six, all 30 or 32 teeth have erupted or developed in alpacas.
Types of Alpaca Teeth and Purposes
As determined by the biological formula, alpacas have three kinds of teeth; incisors, canines, and molars. Each teeth type has a different purpose to serve, read on to know about the alpaca teeth types and their purposes.
Six incisor teeth are present on the lower jaw that fits snugly against the dental pad. Incisors aid in the acquisition and chopping of food.
Owing to the regular chewing, incisors are biologically programmed to wear themselves down.
By the time alpacas reach four years of age, all of their deciduous incisors fall out, replaced by permanent incisors at regular intervals as the animal ages.
Incisors ensure efficient feeding allowing alpaca to grab and eat grass, vegetation, apples, berries, and carrots.
With incisors, alpacas can tear the food from their roots. If they are not aligned, get too long, crooked, or start sticking out, eating food becomes difficult oftentimes results in breaking off of teeth.
Six molars are found on both jaws towards the back of the mouth, three on each side. Alpaca uses them to pulverize its food as well as chew the cud.
Alpaca molars aid in digestion and are designed to be large and provide an efficient grinding surface owing to the way they mesh together.
Since molars are present on the back of the mouth, they are most difficult to work on.
Vets and dentists find it challenging to work on these teeth due to the alpaca mouth not opening very wide.
Older alpacas often can not eat properly as they suffer from gum disease, tooth abscesses, and uneven wearing.
Vets often try to find the issue with an X-ray and then treat the infected molar or the surrounding area.
Canine or fighting teeth are present in all adult male and female alpacas. However, more prominent in males, these teeth grow large with serrated rear edges.
These teeth are weapons or a survival tool when tussling with fellow alpacas or predators. These razor-sharp teeth are used to bite and rip into flesh in combat.
As the alpaca reaches three years of age, canine teeth begin to develop and are seen in between the incisors and molars.
Two canine teeth are found on each side of the maxilla (upper jaw) and one on each side of the mandible (lower jaw), totaling three per side. In some alpacas, canine teeth do not fully develop until seven years of age.
Serious and nasty injuries are expected, so, it is better to remove them at an early age. Males alpacas try to assert dominance by fighting fellow herd members, so, either remove them or keep them under control.
To conclude, alpaca dental care is a real thing, so, regular vet visits should not be avoided to save some cost. With advanced technology, you can improve the dental health of alpacas.