11 Interesting Facts On Sheep Teeth: You Should Know!

Saif Ali

11 Interesting Facts On Sheep Teeth: You Should Know!

Sheep are diphyodont like humans, means they are born with temporary teeth set. Let us discuss in detail about sheep teeth and related facts.

Sheep teeth are unique as they lack upper incisor, still they can easily cut their food using only lower set of incisor. A sheep’s teeth can be used to estimate its age by seeing their lower set of incisor especially up to the age of four.

A sheep’s mouth is completely filled with teeth when it is about four years old. The incisor teeth will begin to widen, wear, and eventually break as it ages through four. Let us discover more interesting facts on sheep teeth below.

Do sheep have top teeth?

Sheep do not have top teeth or teeth in the front of their upper jaw. Their upper jaw is made up of dense fibrous pad which is quite hard in nature. The lamb often has no teeth when it is born.

Image credit : Dental pad of cattle by Helena Bowen and Richard Bowen is licensed under (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

The milk teeth or deciduous teeth also known as temporary teeth, start to sprout in the lower front jaw a week after birth and all eight of them (4 pair of incisors) have emerged by the time the lamb is two months old.

Do sheep have bottom teeth?

Sheep contains bottom teeth in their lower jaw that consist of 4 pairs of incisors (total 8 teeth), 3 pair of pre-molar and 3 pair of molar teeth. In total their bottom jaws contain 20 teeth.

Do sheep have canine teeth?

Sheep have one pair of canine in their lower jaw but they are not fully developed in them. Sheep have 4 pairs of incisor (I1, I2,I3 and I4) including 1 pair of canine (3+1 = 4) present at lower jaw. I4 incisor is actually a canine teeth in sheep.

Sheep are herbivores, hence their canine teeth are not so developed as those of predators, which rip their prey’s flesh with their canines.

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What age do baby sheep get teeth?

Lambs or baby sheep begin to erupt their teeth when they are about a week old. They typically have no teeth when they are born.

The milk teeth, also known as temporary teeth, start to erupt in the lower front jaw within a week just after the birth and all 4 pair of incisors in lower jaw have emerged by the time the lamb is two months old.

What age do sheep lose their teeth?

Sheep usually lose their teeth when they are 10-12 years old. The sheep is referred to as a “gummy” when all of their teeth have fallen out.

It is also crucial to consider whether a breed of sheep matures quickly or slowly. In accordance with this, one erupt teeth early and also loses early.

Are sheep’s teeth sharp?

Sheep teeth are very sharp specifically eight incisors present at the lower jaw. They have incisors at their lower jaw for cutting and biting food. Their teeth act as serrated scissors that are useful for picking up grass. Sharp teeth aids them to cut the grasses easily.

In sheep and all other ruminants, tooth grinding has a specific purpose of sharpening to facilitate effective cutting of food during mastication. Thegosis, a tooth sharpening behavior in sheep helps to sharp their anterior teeth under specific situation.

Sheep teeth structure

The structure of sheep teeth follows two unique section, that are:

  • Twenty-four molars, which are divided into six pairs on either side of the upper and lower jaw
  • Eight permanent incisors in the lower front jaw.
  • Both section combine to make 32 set of permanent teeth.

The dental formula for their teeth is 3/3 pre-molars, 3/3 molars, and 0/4 incisors. For example, 3/3 molars shows that sheep has 3 sets of molar each at upper jaw and at lower jaw. Similarly 0/4 shows, no sets of incisor present on the upper jaw.

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Identifying Sheep age from teeth

Sheep age can be determined by their teeth. Let us discuss some points below for determining the sheep age from their teeth.

AgeSpecification of Teeth
1. From birth to 12 months:
(> or = 1 year)
All eight of the sheep’s teeth are milk teeth or temporary ones at this point.
2. 12-19 months:
(< 1 year)
1. Also called two tooth stage.
2. A sheep’s age will be greater than one year if it has two large central incisors and four little neighboring incisors.
3. 18-24 months:
(2 years)
1. Also known as the four-tooth stage.
2. When a sheep has four milk teeth, two central incisors, and two middle teeth, it can be as old as two years.
4. 23-36 months:
(< 2 years or 3)
Sheep has six teeth which consist of two central, two middle, two lateral incisors and two milk teeth.
5. 28-48 months:
(3-4 years)
1. Also known as eight tooth stage or the fully developed incisor period.
2. The four pairs of incisors—two central, two middle, two lateral, and two corner incisors— of a sheep are fully developed (which is also called canines).
Determining sheep’s age using teeth

Do sheep teeth grow back?

Sheep cannot grow their teeth back after the eruption of permanent teeth. Like humans, they only get one set of teeth in their lifetime. Certain animals can restore missing teeth due to the abundance of stem cells in their jaws. Animal stem cells begin working to create a new tooth after one is gone.

How do sheep lose teeth?

Sheep loses its teeth by four kinds of wear. These are thegotic, abrasive, interproximal, and corrosive wear. Let us discuss them briefly.

1. Thegotic wear

According to research, sheep may spend a significant amount of time thegosing or masticating, and this must put a major strain on the cheek teeth. Ultimately, their teeth becomes weak and they lose them sequentially.

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2. Abrasive wear

The movement of food and other foreign materials over the tooth surface results in abrasive wear.

The dentine and enamel surface of the incisors develop distinctive wear zones as a result of abrasion. Abrasion wear is the excessive incisor wear that results due to grazing, which shows significant economic importance in many parts of the world.

3. Interproximal wear

When adjacent teeth rub against one another as a result of very slight movement within their periodontal sockets, this is known as interproximal wear.

4. Corrosive wear

Apatite, a hard calcium phosphate mineral that forms on teeth, can be broken down by organic acids found in rapidly growing plants, which contribute to corrosion-induced wear in sheep.

Sheep teeth problems

Periodontal disease and excessive incisor-tooth wear are regarded as the two most significant teeth problems seen in sheep. Odontogenic cysts, caries, improper enamel are less commonly seen in sheep.

Let us discuss briefly about all teeth problems.

1. Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease, is a serious dental issue which causes premature tooth loss in sheep. Pocketing and food impaction around the tooth, inflammation of the gingivae, and eventual tooth loss are the main symptoms of the disease.

2. Defective enamel formation

Ingestion of large amounts of fluorine, gastrointestinal parasitism, and feeding young sheep grain diets high in phosphorus and low in calcium have all been linked to defective enamel production.

3. Caries

Caries is rarely seen in sheep. Deep holes form in the enamel, generally at the base of the tooth leaving a rough scar at gum level in sheep teeth.

4. Excessive incisor tooth wear

Premature loss of teeth in sheep is a major problem which causes early involuntary culling.

Affected sheep are unable to chew short or harsh pasture which ultimately results in the malnutrition and also affects the production.

5. Dentigerous (odontogenic) cysts

Young adult sheep occasionally have dentigerous cysts. These cysts’ underlying cause is still a mystery. If grazing has been scarce for a while, it could be present with a bad body state.

The mandibular symphysis has a consistent, non-painful, bony enlargement that is roughly 5 to 6 cm in diameter and affects the incisor tooth roots.

Conclusion

To sum up, we may say that sheep teeth are quite distinctive in their own way. Despite not having an upper jaw, they can chop plants effectively. Their age can be determined easily by their teeth. However, sheep still have a variety of dental issues that cause them to lose their teeth at an early age.

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