Chimpanzee Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: January 14, 2022
Image Credit Afandi Teguh Afriyanto/

Chimpanzees are one of the smartest animals on the planet, and one of the most popular types of apes to be kept as pets. Despite being popular monkey pets, chimpanzees can be very aggressive as well. As they share 98% of human DNA, it is not surprising that chimpanzee teeth are almost the same as humans, except for the fact that they have bigger and more terrifying canines than we do.

Chimpanzees have a pretty long lifespan, reaching 60 years of age. The oldest chimpanzee that has ever lived was recorded to reach at least the age of 80. This makes the teeth of chimpanzees very important to reaching older ages. Let’s dive into how chimpanzee teeth differ versus humans.

What Kind of Teeth Do Chimpanzees Have?

Aggressive Animal: Chimpanzee
Though chimpanzees have the same dental structure as humans, their canines are bigger and sharper.

Image CreditAfandi Teguh Afriyanto/

Chimpanzees have the same dental structure as humans and many other mammals. The only difference is that their canines are bigger and way sharper than ours. Chimpanzees are primates, and primates have a complete set of incisors, canines, premolars, and molars

Primates like chimpanzees (and humans) have a unique characteristic called heterodonty. This means that they possess a variety of teeth types that make them easier to determine among other mammals.

As you take a look at a chimpanzee’s mouth, you will be welcomed by eight incisors. These incisors are followed by one canine tooth in each quadrant. Chimpanzees’ canines are long and sharp which may seem terrifying when they open their mouth wide. After the canines are premolars and molars, collectively called “cheek teeth”, that help them in chewing and grinding their food.

Chimpanzees use their incisors or front teeth to nip off food from trees, while they use their molars and premolars to grind, crush, and juice the plant materials they eat before digesting. 

How Many Teeth Do Chimpanzees Have?

Smartest Animals – Chimpanzees
Chimpanzees have 32 teeth.

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Like most primates, adult chimpanzees have a total of 32 teeth unless disrupted by dental conditions. The typical dental formula for chimpanzees is: Incisors 2/2, Canines 1/1, Premolars 2/2, and Molars 3/3. 

The numbers above represent how many teeth a chimpanzee has in each quadrant or side of the jaw –top, bottom, left, and right. All in all, chimpanzees are expected to grow a total of 32 teeth inside their mouths, which include 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars in the middle of the jaws, and 12 molars at the rear portion of the mouth. This dentition pattern is likely shared by humans as well.

Chimpanzees, however, do not possess the complete number of 32 teeth after their birth. Like most primates, they have two sets of teeth that grow in one lifetime.

Do Chimpanzees Have Baby Teeth?

Chimpanzees are diphyodont, which means they grow two sets of teeth throughout their life. After birth, chimpanzees will have only a few teeth, which is their deciduous set of teeth, commonly called baby teeth. Deciduous teeth do not fall voluntarily all at once. As chimpanzees age, these baby teeth fall out and permanent teeth erupt in their place. Chimpanzees typically get a complete set of permanent teeth at around 11 years of age.

Chimpanzees and humans have a lot in common, especially when it comes to teeth structure. This is not surprising anyway since chimpanzees have almost the same DNA as we do. However, what differs between a human’s dental pattern and a chimpanzee’s is the latter’s long and sharp canines. Humans are omnivores, and we need canine teeth to help tear meat in our food. Chimpanzees, on the other hand, mostly feed on plant materials, so what do they use these sharp canines for?

Why Do Chimpanzees Have Sharp, Pointed Teeth?

Chimpanzee Teeth - Chimpanzee Skull
Chimpanzee canines are significantly larger than humans.

Image CreditVictor1153/

Chimpanzees love to yawn or open their mouths to show off their teeth. And one thing you can easily notice about their mouths is a pair of really sharp fangs protruding behind the incisors. These canines are often used to help them tear their food into pieces, but since the chimpanzee’s diet consists mostly of plant matter, these canines are utilized mainly in threatening and fighting other chimpanzees or predators.

Although chimpanzees have canines in the very same location as humans, theirs are substantially bigger and longer than ours. Their diet might not explain directly why these canines are similar to carnivorous mammals, as chimpanzees eat a diet that is focused on plant-based materials, such as leaves, fruits, nuts, tree bark, figs, seeds, and flowers. Chimpanzees occasionally feed on very small amounts of meat, but still, this kind of diet wouldn’t need such large and terrifying canines.

Since these canine teeth aren’t used to chew food, chimpanzees use them as a threat. Large canines are indeed menacing, and chimpanzees often use them as a warning to other chimpanzees, predators in the wild, or even to humans.

Do Chimpanzees Bite?

Chimpanzees are distant in the wild and would rather run away than attack. However, chimpanzees are naturally aggressive, so when they get used to being around people too much, they can attack and even bite off fingers. Chimpanzees are observed to go for the parts sensitive to humans such as the neck, face, hands, and genitals. Captive chimpanzees are often more likely to attack than chimpanzees in the wild.

Despite being smaller than humans, chimpanzees can be quite aggressive and can be stronger than humans when they attack. Chimpanzees are studied to be about 1.35 times stronger and faster than an average human. Their muscle fibers can also help them outperform humans in tasks such as jumping and pulling.

Are Chimpanzee Bites Dangerous?

A chimpanzee’s bite is strong enough to bite off a finger. Apart from that, a chimpanzee’s bite can also cause serious wound infections. Chimpanzees can also carry rabies, so a bite wound must immediately be cleaned with soap and running water and may require further medical attention.