Differences Between Human and Primate Teeth

Many debates exist on on how similar humans really are to primates. One area we are definitely similar to our animal cousins is in our teeth and jaws.

orangutanWe are strikingly similar when it comes to human and ape teeth and jaws. Both of us have 32 teeth that include incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Although primate and human teeth differ in the size of canine teeth (primate’s are larger), the main difference lies in the shapes of our jaws. Our jaws are a different shape (parabolic) and our jaws are much smaller than primate’s. Primates’ jaws are more rectangular than ours. Humans also have a chin where primates lack one. This affects the shape of the face as well. Human faces are proportionally reversed from humans. This means that our large brain and small jaws create an opposite shape than primate’s because they have small brains and large jaws.

The differences between human and primate jaws can be attributed in part to varied diets. Primates’ larger jaws and larger teeth are more useful in their vegetarian diets. They are constantly eating fibrous fruits, plants, and shoots. Humans eat a more well-rounded diet and don’t need quite as wide of a jaw for the food we eat.

Next time you visit a zoo, take a look at how similar we really are to primates. It is quite intriguing. Also note the differences in the health of our teeth compared to primates. Maintaining a regular oral care routine helps in preventing the stains and tartar you’ll notice on primate teeth.