The Eastern Gray Squirrel: Inside the Mouth of North Carolina’s State Mammal

An Eastern gray squirrel, the state mammal of North Carolina, stands on his hind legs

At Oakboro Family Dentistry, our team is full of state pride! Today, we’re going to spotlight the official state mammal of North Carolina: the eastern gray squirrel. Read on to learn a few facts about its teeth in comparison to human teeth.

Baby Teeth & Permanent Teeth

Like us, gray squirrels have baby teeth that are replaced by adult teeth that do not re-grow if lost. However, a human child typically loses their first baby tooth around the age of 6, and a gray squirrel will lose its baby teeth between 4 and 5 months old. Additionally, humans have 20 baby teeth and then 28-32 adult teeth, while eastern gray squirrels have only 6 baby teeth and 22 permanent teeth (consisting of 4 incisors and 18 molars). Unlike our fully emerged adult teeth, squirrel incisors (the teeth at the front of the mouth used for cutting) will continue to grow along a curved path. In fact, squirrel teeth grow at the rate of around 6 inches each year!

Bite Misalignment

Our squirrel friends can suffer from the same bite alignment issues that we do, including overbite, underbite and incorrect teeth positioning. Unfortunately, squirrels with misaligned teeth face serious consequences since they can’t straighten their smile with orthodontic treatment. When the incisors of a wild squirrel do not align properly, they continue to grow until the squirrel cannot eat anymore or they pierce the opposite jaw, resulting in death. Squirrels in captivity who have maloccluded incisors must have them trimmed every 4 weeks and are considered “non-releasable” for their own safety.

Teeth Color

The front of a gray squirrel’s incisors is tinted orange with harder enamel than on the softer, white back. Uneven wear on the incisors creates an effective cutting edge that allows the squirrel to pierce nuts and other food. Human teeth aren’t always sparkling white either, but for different reasons. Our teeth can have a yellowish tint caused by a number of factors, such as an acidic diet, certain medications, weakened enamel, smoking, and/or poor oral hygiene practices. To help prevent tooth discoloration, quit smoking, brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste for two minutes each time, floss every day, and visit our office biannually for cleanings and checkups. We also invite you to utilize our cosmetic dentistry services, including professional teeth whitening or porcelain veneers, to improve the appearance of your smile.

Ask Us All Your Dental-Related Questions!

We hope these facts give you a new appreciation for our state mammal. If you have questions about improving your oral hygiene routine, your dental health, or the color of our teeth, or are interested in any of our services, we are here to help. Contact our friendly team today.

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