Carnivores such as dogs or cats have long sharp teeth for stabbing and killing their prey. These long,
sharp teeth are near the front of their mouths and are called canine teeth. In the back of their mouth
are short, sharp teeth for grabbing and holding a struggling animal. Carnivores eat by taking large bites
and swallowing chunks often without chewing their food.
Some teeth can be easily distinguished by shape and/or placement in the mouth. Incisors (front-most
teeth) in carnivores tend to be small and mostly used as a grooming tool since their mode of eating is to
primarily bite off large chunks and swallow without a lot of chewing. Their canines (stabbing teeth) tend
to be prominent and enlarged facilitating the holding and dispatching of prey. Premolars and molars are
reduced in number and have sharp surfaces.
Teeth of Herbivores
Herbivores have wide, flat teeth (molars) in the back of their mouths for grinding grasses, seeds, leaves,
bark, and other plants they eat. In the front of their mouths, they tend to have sharp, flat teeth for
snipping off these plants.
Rats and mice are herbivores and also rodents. One characteristic of rodents is that the incisors (frontmost teeth) are chisel-shaped, and ever-growing (continue to grow the animal’s entire life). The front of
the incisor is made of a stronger material than the backside of the incisor, so as the animal chews, the
back of the tooth wears down faster, adding to the chisel-shape. Also, many rodents have pigmented or
colored incisors as is evident in the rat.
In some herbivores, such as a deer, the upper incisors and the upper canines are missing. The lower
canines are either extremely modified and reduced in size or missing altogether. Some herbivores will
rely on their tongues to lick up leaves or grass then shear off the plant materials with their lower incisors
only. Many herbivores have special stomachs so they can regurgitate the food from a special
compartment in their stomach to continue chewing it at a later time. Extra compartments are needed in
the stomach to help break down the tough cellulose in plant matter, especially for browsers, such as
Teeth of Omnivores
Raccoons and skunks are examples of omnivores, meaning they will eat both plants and animals,
including worms and insects. Teeth of omnivores are not as uniform in type as the teeth of carnivores
and herbivores. In addiction, the canine teeth are less prominent and the molars are more flat than jagged. In fact, humans are omnivores as well.