When alpacas open their mouth, you usually only see the front teeth sticking out or sometimes none at all. But you definitely don’t see any teeth behind it, making you wonder how they digest their food.
Do alpacas have teeth? Yes, alpacas actually have three different kinds of teeth that each serve their own purpose. The visible row in the front of the mouth are called incisor teeth, the second row is called canine teeth, and the row at the back are the molars.
In this blog, you’ll learn how alpacas use each set of teeth.
Over the last million years, the teeth of alpacas have not changed. These days, the teeth of alpacas have the exact layout of ancient fossil alpacas dating back 25 million years.
Alpacas have 3 different types of teeth that all serve their own purpose. These are called molars, incisors, and canines. Their teeth usually grow all through the lifetime of alpacas and sometimes need to be trimmed to stay fully functional.
Look at the picture below to see where in the mouth they belong and what they look like:
Alpaca’s Incisor Teeth
There are six incisor teeth in the front of the lower jaw. Unlike humans, alpacas have no teeth at the front of the upper jaw. This is because the incisor teeth are not meant to grind food. They use them to grab or pull grass out of the ground (or humans’ hands).
Alpacas hold grass, shut their mouth, and press the grass against their dental pad at the front of the top jaw with incisors.
The incisor teeth fall out and are replaced by new teeth at a particular interval when alpacas age. Also, these teeth are worn down fast by the chewing process.
People who own and take care of alpacas these days have to be conscious about how to carefully trim the incisors of alpacas regularly. If these incisors grow long, then alpacas find too challenging to eat and get their teeth to break off sooner or later.
Incisors grow thicker, harder, and longer when you do not trim such teeth every so often. You have to follow the complete guidelines to trim alpacas’ incisors. This is because the cut has to be made in the exact place where usually-aligned teeth touch the dental pad.
Alpaca’s Molar teeth
There are six molar teeth on each jaw at the back of the mouth. There are also three premolar teeth on each side. Molar teeth are large and suitable for grinding all foods and essential for complete digestion. These teeth play the most important roles by supporting the alpacas to pulverize food.
These teeth also support the alpacas to chew part-digested cud that comes up from the stomach, exactly like what happens with cows.
Veterinarians worldwide get much difficulty to work with these teeth as these teeth are located so far back in the mouth of alpacas. They prefer and use X-ray to find problems in such teeth and provide the best suitable treatments.
Alpaca’s Canine teeth
Canine teeth in alpacas are known as fighting teeth. Though alpacas are 100% vegetarian, adult males have canine teeth in between the molars and incisors.
These teeth usually appear when alpacas are about two years old. Adult female alpacas also have canine teeth.
However, they are not prominent and blunt. These teeth are very sharp when compared to other teeth. There are two canines on alpacas’ upper jaw and one tooth on each lower jaw side. These teeth curve backward when they mature.