Does An Elephant Have Teeth – Types, Purpose & Function

Does an elephant have teeth? Yes, elephants have teeth! They have four distinct sets of teeth and 24 teeth plus 2 tusks. Their front tusks are elongated incisors, which can grow up to 10 feet long in some species.

They use the tusks for protection and dig into the ground while searching for food. The molars are used for grinding and crushing vegetation. Even though elephants’ teeth constantly grow and wear down, they will only have four sets throughout their lifetime.

Does An Elephant Have Teeth – Types, Purpose & Function

1. Incisors:

Do elephant have teeth? Elephants have two pairs of incisors on the front of their upper jaw, which forms their iconic tusks. These are used for defense, digging for food, and marking territory.

2. Molar Teeth Of Elephant:

Elephants have 24 molars in total – 12 in the upper jaw and 6 in the lower jaw. These teeth are used for grinding and crushing vegetation to help elephants process tough plants and search for food buried beneath the soil. As they age, these molars steadily wear down, but new ones continuously form behind them to keep up with dietary needs.

3. Canines:

Some species, such as the African elephant, also have canine teeth that can grow up to 3ft long. These are used for defense and can be quite dangerous to other animals and humans if provoked.

4. Premolars:

Elephants have premolar teeth in their upper and lower jaws to help them bite and chew food more efficiently. 

Understanding the features of elephant teeth and their purpose and function makes it easy to see why these specialized body parts are so important for the species’ survival in the wild! 

These teeth all work together. They enable elephants to survive in their environment by helping them process tough plants and search for food buried beneath the soil. Their continuously growing teeth counterbalance the constant wear on their teeth from grinding and chewing vegetation. 

Although elephants will only ever have four sets of teeth in their lifetime, they are well-equipped to survive in the wild thanks to their unique dental structure. 

Features Of Elephant Teeth

1. Elephants teeth have a set of six incisors on the front of their upper jaw called tusks. These tusks are used for defense, food digging, and territory marking.

2. They also have two sets of molars: an upper set with 12 teeth and a lower set with 6 teeth on each side that wear down as they age.

3. Elephant molars can grow up to 30 cm (12 in) long and weigh more than 5 kg (11 lb).

4. As elephant molars slowly wear away due to eating tough vegetation, new ones form behind them, allowing elephants to eat continuously throughout their lives without having to search for food excessively or risk starvation.

5. Elephant tusks are also made of dentine and enamel, like their molars, but never fall out or must be replaced.

Understanding the features of an elephant’selephant’s teeth makes it easy to see why they are such versatile and important tools for these animals’ survival in the wild!

The Life Cycle Of Elephant Teeth

  • At birth, baby elephants have no teeth.
  • Their first set of milk teeth emerge as they grow and are replaced by permanent molars when the elephant is around two years old.
  • These molars slowly wear down as the elephant eats tough vegetation throughout its life, but new ones continuously form behind them to keep up with its dietary needs.
  • Elephant tusks never fall out or need to be replaced and can remain with the animal until it dies of old age or other causes.
  • The worn-down teeth may eventually be replaced by ivory from a younger elephant if there is enough food in the environment for it to survive long enough for this to occur.

The Difference Between Mammal Teeth & Elephant Teeth

Mammal & Elephant Number Of Teeth:

How many teeth elephants have? Mammals generally have two sets of teeth, while elephants can have up to four sets in their lifetime.

Types Of Teeth:

Mammals typically possess incisors, canines, and premolars, while elephants have specialized tusks for defense and marking territory.

Material Composition:

Mammal teeth are mainly composed of enamel and dentine, while the tusks on elephant teeth are made from ivory.

Maintenance & Replacement:

Mammal teeth may need to be replaced at certain intervals due to wear and tear. In contrast, elephant molars continuously grow behind the worn teeth so that they can eat continually throughout their lives.


Mammal teeth are mainly used for eating, while elephant tusks serve multiple purposes, such as defense and marking territory.

What Is Ivory, And Why Does It Belong To Elephants?

  • Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusks and teeth of certain animals, such as elephants.
  • It has been used for centuries to create fine art, jewelry, and other decorative items. While ivory is aesthetically pleasing, it can also damage the environment when harvested illegally or inhumanely.
  • The illegal ivory trade has caused severe declines in elephant populations worldwide, so it is important to only buy ivory products from certified and reputable sources that practice sustainable harvesting methods! 

Understanding why elephants have teeth and what makes them different from mammal teeth makes it easy to see why their tusks are so valuable and must be protected. Through proper education and conservation efforts, we can help ensure that elephants remain a part of our world for many years. ​​​


Are Elephant Teeth Sharp? 

No, elephant teeth are not sharp. Like Cows, They have flat surfaces with ridges that help them grind and chew tough vegetation.

Do Elephants Need To Be Brushed?

No, elephants do not need to be brushed since their molars continuously grow behind the worn-down ones. This ensures that they can constantly eat throughout their lives without having to search for food excessively or risk starvation.

Do Elephants Smile?

Yes, elephants can smile. This behavior is usually associated with being content or relaxed and is most often seen when an elephant feels safe and secure.

Do Male And Female Elephants Have Tusks?

Yes, both male and female elephants possess tusks. However, male elephants typically have longer tusks than female ones due to the hormones they produce.

Can Teeth Be Used To Identify An Elephant?

Yes, teeth can be used to identify an elephant since each has unique patterns on its molars that can help distinguish one individual from another. Additionally, the length of their tusks can also provide information about the elephant’s age in question.


Elephant teeth are an incredibly important and versatile tool for these animals’ survival in the wild. From their number of sets to their material composition and purpose, elephants demonstrate a unique set of specialized dentition that enables them to thrive and adapt to their environment. Thus, it is essential to continue studying and protecting these magnificent creatures so that they can live long and happy lives!