You may know them as Alvin’s little friends who love to sing in the movie Alvin and the Chipmunks, but in reality, chipmunks really love to chirp and use their harmony to communicate with each other. Chipmunks are one of the cutest and tiniest members of the squirrel family and are classified as rodents. These striped mammals are usually found in deserts, mountains, and forests around Asia, Europe, and North America.
Chipmunks are often compared to squirrels because of how much alike they are. It makes sense though, because chipmunks are actually striped squirrels who live in a different region and habitat. They are also smaller and have a shorter lifespan. But if there is one thing that is exactly the same between chipmunks and squirrels, it is their teeth. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about chipmunk teeth, how many teeth they have, and whether their bite can harm humans.
What Kind of Teeth Do Chipmunks Have?
Like most rodents, chipmunks have a pretty prominent set of incisors or front teeth that are sharp, elongated, and that never stop growing. They also have cheek teeth that help them chew their food, composed of premolars and molars.
One unique characteristic that the rodent family has is their distinctive dental structure that features extra-long incisors that continuously grow in semi-circle forms throughout their lives. They are like human fingernails that continuously grow as long as we live and are in constant need to be trimmed down to keep them healthy.
Most rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks, beavers, and rabbits have the same set of sharp, ever-growing incisors. As a result, they always need to maintain them at a reasonable length so it won’t impede food.
Like rodents, chipmunks maintain their front teeth at a proper length by continuously gnawing on hardwood or furniture to help their teeth wear down as they grow, and to keep them sharp as well. When a chipmunk chews, the incredible front teeth align exactly in its mouth, and both the top and bottom incisors wear away at the same pace.
Are Chipmunks Teeth Sharp?
Chipmunks’ front teeth are sharp enough to help them gnaw on hard wood and furniture. Even though they have no canine teeth like other mammals, their cheek teeth are incredibly sharp despite their size. Chipmunk teeth cut sharp like a chisel, which helps them effectively grind hard food inside their mouths, such as nuts, bird eggs, snails, insects, and seeds.
A chipmunk’s teeth have an outer protective layer called enamel that helps shield the teeth from breaking against hard food like nuts. This protective cover around the cheek teeth also prevents the molars and premolars from wearing down easily. Like most rodents, chipmunks do not have canine teeth, which leaves a gap, called diastema, between their incisors and the set of premolars and molar teeth in the middle going to the back of their mouths.
How Many Teeth Do Chipmunks Have?
Chipmunks, like most squirrels, have 20-22 teeth. They have four front teeth, four premolar teeth, and 12 molars. A chipmunk’s incisors are crucial for it to gnaw on hard items while the molars are vital to help it juice the plants, mushrooms, and berries that it eats. Chipmunks are also equipped with strong jaws that help them chew and crack open tough food like nuts and seeds.
The typical dental formula of chipmunks is: Incisors 1/1, canines 0/0, premolars 1-2/1, molars 3/3 = 20-22. Sharp canine teeth are usually a sign of a carnivorous predator. The strong, prominent teeth of chipmunks, however, are clear signs of an omnivorous diet.
Do Chipmunks Leave Teeth Marks?
When chipmunks scrape something, their teeth are powerful enough to leave a visible impact represented by teeth marks. A half-eaten nut, for instance, maize sprouts near a tree, or sunflower buds, may show sharp and abrasive imprints on the surface the chipmunk has bitten on.
What Happens if Chipmunks Teeth Overgrow?
Chipmunk teeth should be maintained at a proper length so they won’t impede food ingestion. Apart from that, overgrown teeth can also cause serious dental problems and worse, may even tear brain tissues.
Chipmunks must gnaw to keep their teeth short and sharp throughout their lives. Overgrown incisors can be dangerous for them as they can develop dental issues. However, failing to maintain their incisors at a reasonable length can lead to a more serious condition.
“Malocclusion” refers to a condition in which teeth don’t fit and align together properly. As a result, overgrown incisors can injure the adjacent tissues, and can dangerously extend and tear towards the brain.
When faced with this condition, chipmunks won’t be able to chew their food properly, which might lead to malnutrition, starvation, and even death.
What Are Chipmunks’ Front Teeth For?
Chipmunks eat tough food with shells such as nuts and seeds. Their front teeth are used to crack hard shells of nuts and other tough food. They are also used in gnawing on various things, such as wood, sheetrock, plastic, or wiring.
The diastema or the gap left between the premolars and incisors caused by missing canine teeth actually helps chipmunks easily gnaw on food and other items they find chewable.
Do Chipmunks Bite?
Chipmunks are not aggressive mammals, but they are not very social animals either. They rarely bite or harm people unless they feel threatened or attacked. If a chipmunk bites you, the first thing to do is wash the wound with soap and warm water. Even though chipmunks are not known to possess and transmit rabies, their bite can cause bacterial infections and pain.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Skyler Ewing/Shutterstock.com
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