Say “Cheese!” for Dental Health

8-3-17 dental

While National Smile Week may be for humans to celebrate, it is a good reminder to check livestock teeth as well. If cattle have poor teeth, they may have issues eating. If they don’t eat properly, cattle will lack the nutrition needed to calve properly and produce milk.

Cows do not have top front teeth (incisors). Instead, have a hard gum area, called a dental pad, which is able to assist with eating. Similar to humans, calves start with baby teeth, which they start losing after a year. Over the next few years, cattle will have 32 permanent teeth grow in. These permanent teeth can be used to help determine age of an animal.

When an animal starts getting older and all their teeth have grown in and been in place, it is harder to gauge age by the teeth anymore. Dental health is, however, still a good indicator of animal health. Depending on wear and general appearance, an animal’s longevity and health can be determined. When a cow starts losing teeth, they are called “Broke-mouthed”. Short and solid teeth means the animal still has all of their teeth, but they are very worn down. Smooth-mouth cattle means the animal has no teeth at all, or the teeth are so worn they are no longer effective with the eating process.


“Cattle Must Have Sound Teeth.” NSW Agriculture

O’Brien, Dr. Anna. “Dental Care for Cows, Goats, and the Surprisingly Vicious Llama.” PetMD

Wells, Ph.D., Robert. “Teeth Condition Can Reveal Cow Age, Aid Culling Decisions.” Noble Research Institute

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