Young Boy and Dog Smiling

What do you know about your canine teeth? By the name alone you might think you share teeth with a certain furry friend, & while they do have carnivorous origins, there’s a lot more to them than you might think.

The Basics

Located at the corners of your mouth on either side of your incisors, your canine teeth frame your smile & their large roots support your lips to give your smile a full look.
Your baby canine teeth come in between 16 & 20 months, starting with the top & followed by the bottom ones. The order is reversed when your adult canine teeth come in, with the lower set appearing around age 9 & the upper around age 11–12.

The Animal Kingdom

Humans & dogs are not the only ones with these teeth. Most mammals have canine teeth—herbivores included—& they vary widely in size & appearance. Though their main purpose is commonly thought to be tearing meats, for most mammals that isn’t the case at all. In fact, the animal with the largest canine teeth, the hippopotamus, is an herbivore. Instead, canine teeth are primarily used to intimidate or attack aggressors or find a mate, as is the case for gorillas who have greater success the larger their canine teeth are.

However, that doesn’t mean that canine teeth are never used for tearing meat. Big cats, as well as other predators, still use their canine teeth that way & anthropologists believe that our distant ancestors, whose diets likely included more meat than ours do today, had longer canine teeth for that purpose. Over time, our canine teeth have steadily shrunk, which may be due to diet changes toward softer, farmed foods.

The Cultural Significance

In Bali, canine teeth are believed to represent anger & jealousy. To reduce those negative emotions, & as a symbolic gesture to separate themselves from animal instincts, teenagers have their canine teeth filed down to the length of their front teeth (incisors).

In popular culture, vampires have longer, sharper canine teeth that they use to pierce their victims, though some costume designers place vampire fangs on the outer incisors, with just two teeth in between, so they are more visible on the TV screen. Some people have naturally longer canine teeth, resembling & commonly referred to as vampire teeth. These individuals often have dentists reshape them to fit better in their mouths, as they can affect teeth alignment & cause sores.

There’s a lot more to your teeth than you might realize, & if you have any questions about them or about what we do for them, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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