African elephants' teeth are just as important to them as their hearts or any other major organs are, according to veterinary dentist David Fagan. Without their teeth, these massive mammals would certainly die.
African elephants' teeth fall out often due to overuse. These animals must eat hundreds of pounds of food a day to sustain themselves, which puts a lot of constant pressure on their teeth. In fact, most African elephants eat between 400 to 600 pounds of plants and leafy green vegetables each day.
Throughout its lifetime, an African elephant can lose and regrow its teeth up to six times. Young elephants usually have a set of teeth for about three years before they fall out, whereas adult elephants go through a set of teeth in about 10 years.
Elephant teeth grow from the back of the animal's mouth and move forward as it ages. This is very different from human teeth, which grow directly from the gum line.
Unlike with humans, it can be lethal for an African elephant to run out of teeth. This equals starvation for the animal. Because of this very problem, the African elephant species is going extinct.
African elephants are crucial to our ecosystem. Their extinction would be devastating. Hopefully, innovative efforts to save this species will soon prove effective.
[Source: Simpson Street Free Press Archives]