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October 18th, 2018

Why Do Humans Have Canine Teeth?

Category: dental health

why do humans have canine teeth

It’s that time of year…not just Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but it’s also time for Halloween!

Each year, costumes surely shift and change based on popular culture. But year after year, monsters, witches, vampires, and werewolves continue to be popular.

With that in mind, we thought we’d explore one key part of so many vampire (or well, monster) costumes: that is, their canine teeth.

What Are Canine Teeth, Anyway?

Humans have four canine teeth: two on our upper jaw, and two on the lower jaw. In more technical terms, you have two mandibular canines and the two maxillary canines.

Canine teeth are very useful teeth, as we typically hold and bite food with them. They are useful for tearing up larger pieces of food, such as meat or anything that’s a little chewier. Some say we don’t need canines to survive, and while that may be true, they certainly help us to chew (1, 2, 3).

hagen dental blog a look at fangs

A Look at Fangs

When we think of vampires or certain monsters, we often think of their fangs. Fangs can be a type of canine teeth, when it’s the teeth in the upper jaw we’re talking about.

We also sometimes think of bats and their fangs; after all, they have incisors, canines, premolars and molars. Their canines are indeed their fangs, and no matter the bat, they all have them (7).

Interestingly, some recent vampire fangs—on TV, that is—have been featured on laterals rather than their cuspids.

For example, if you watch the show True Blood, you’ll notice that the vampires’ fangs are designed to look more like “snake fangs.” Go figure!

Going back in movie/TV history, here are some other notable vampire fangs:

  • In the 1922 classic Nosferatu, the monster had fangs where his two front incisors were
  • In The Lost Boys, Kiefer Sutherland and others sported pointy lateral incisors
  • In 30 Days of Night, every monster tooth was pointy and a bit fang-like!
  • The Christopher Lee Dracula character had scary, sharp cuspids—which many credit as kicking off sharp “vampire fangs” for years to follow (5, 6)

Do All Animals Have Canine Teeth?

Not all animals have canine teeth, but many animals do. The ones that don’t include rodents, rabbits, and pikas. It may be surprising, but many plant-eating animals (herbivores) actually do have very sharp canine teeth, though.

Consider the hippo’s canine teeth: they have canines so large that they are like swords. They can even be 16 inches long, so it’s no wonder they are the largest canines of any mammal.

Even though they are still canine teeth, their purpose isn’t for feeding or chewing. After all, they have a diet of grass, for the most part. Instead, their extra-large canines are designed for combat (1, 3, 4).

Do Canine Teeth Really Tell Us About Someone’s Personality?

Well, we have to say: it’s a bit of a myth that the size and shape of your canine teeth can be indicative of your personality. But if you choose to believe, here’s what your teeth may indicate:

  • Pointer and longer canine teeth: The myth says you tend to have an aggressive or more assertive personality.
  • Flattened canines with less prominent tips: You can be passive.
  • Tiny canines: You may just be a pushover! (2)

we love those smiles hagen dental blogFloss Those Fangs & Make Your Next Appointment with Hagen Dental Practice

At Hagen Dental, we love to see your confident smile! Looking to set up your next dentist appointment with us? Give us a call at (513) 251-5500 or setup your appointment online by clicking the online scheduling button.



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