Geckos are interesting lizards with a range of their own unique traits and characteristics. But what about teeth; do they possess these like other animals and mammals? I was very interested by this question, so I did some research. Here is what I found.
So, do geckos have teeth? Yes, all geckos have teeth and are born with them. Different species of gecko have a different number and shape of teeth, however the average species of gecko will have between 50-300 teeth that line the jaw and are shaped like small pointed cones. Teeth are used to support feeding, protect and assist the shedding process and regularly fall out and regrow throughout a geckos life.
Evolution has meant that geckos have developed teeth just like many other species. Teeth serve a purpose but not in the way you might think!
Let us now explore the topic further so you can get a better understanding of the type of teeth geckos have, how they use them and if geckos are prone to biting!
How Many Teeth Do Geckos Have?
Depending on the species of gecko you have, they are going to have a different number of teeth.
Most species of gecko have rows of tiny teeth known as “conical teeth lining the bones on their jaw.
Conical teeth are teeth that are shaped like speared cones. They are elongated and become smaller towards the tip of the tooth until it becomes a point. In humans, this would be something that would be referred to as a canine.
These teeth can be lost and grow back in across their lifetime. Meaning, within species you will also find a bit of variation.
Their teeth are lost and replaced continuously throughout their lives- it is nature’s way of making sure that the gecko always has a full set of teeth to use.
They also come out of their egg with a fully developed set of teeth that are perfectly functional.
The average species of geckos will have around 50 to 100 teeth in total. However, there are species that can have fewer teeth or many more.
Lead-tailed geckos, for instance, have over 300 teeth. The most teeth possessed by any land animal with a spinal cord.
Geckos rely upon having their full set of teeth for survival.
Why Do Geckos Need Teeth?
Geckos need teeth for hunting down prey. For anyone that has a gecko, this may come across as very odd.
Unlike humans, they do not chew their food. In fact, they actually swallow all of their prey whole.
They use a combination of muscle movements and their flexible tongues to just force insects down there throats as they swallow them.
Why exactly does an animal that swallows their prey whole need teeth? Well, to make the whole process a little bit easier.
In fact, their teeth aren’t even aligned in a way that would be useful for grinding their food down into smaller gulps.
Instead, they are positioned in a manner that allows them to hunt, kill and make the feeding process easier. They are able to slice their prey or even just hold onto active and quick prey. For geckos, it’s all about speed and getting food down their throats fast before prey can escape.
Teeth are also not just for eating though. The teeth are also a way for geckos to protect themselves and keep what is theirs.
It may surprise you to learn that these cute little lizards can get into some nasty fights with one another.
If they, especially males, see another gecko come in on their territory (or mating partner(s), they can attack to protect what is ‘theirs’. This sometimes involves a little dramatic display of aggression.
In a less aggressive manner, the teeth also play a key role in shedding.
When shedding their skin, as reptiles regularly do, geckos rely off of their teeth to help scrape away the dead skin that’s piling up and get the stressful process over with a little sooner.
They need to do this several times throughout the calendar year- so the sooner it’s over, the better.
Do Geckos Bite Humans?
There is no universal answer to the behavior of a reptile.
You will always encounter some geckos which bite, while simultaneously always finding one of the same species which doesn’t.
For the most part, geckos you keep as pets are docile. Leopard geckos are renowned for being harmless; one of the many reasons in why they are often kept as pets.
For the most part, any medium to large sized gecko is relatively easy to handle. They are mostly docile and generally will not bite.
Some of the smaller ones may be more prone to being nippy (think of this as overcompensation and a defensive mechanism).
There are some steps you can take to make sure that they are less likely to bite you.
First, learn how to properly handle these small lizards. This can help limit any stress you may unintentionally deliver to them by not holding them properly.
On top of that, consider keeping them around people on a regular basis and socialize them frequently. They will be less likely to bite you if they don’t sense you as a threat. If they see you all the time, and get used to being handled, they’re not likely to feel in danger each time.
Finally, keep them fed and healthy. An angry or sick gecko is more likely to be irritated and bite you without warning. When they are fed and healthy, they will be much friendly and open to being handled.
Remember, lizards have personalities too. There are always individual differences which are to be expected between them just as there are some with people.
Some geckos will be more open to being handled compared to others, and there is sometimes nothing you can do about it.
What Happens If A Gecko Bites You?
Geckos are a non-venomous type of lizard. This means that even if they pierce the skin, they are not going to inject you with any harmful substances such as a cobra or copperhead snake would.
Thankfully, geckos are not poisonous or toxic in any way.
Beyond that, due to their relatively small teeth size, it is rather hard for them to even break the skin.
Even when provoked, they are usually not motivated enough to bite with all their might -or- they are incapable of forcing their way through skin.
On the rare occasion that they bite and are able to penetrate through the skin, wounds are likely to be small. It is pretty improbable to be able to end up with any scarring or long-term open wounds.
Still, if you notice that skin has been broken, it is always a smart idea to clean the wound. Any animal (or person for that matter) has the capacity to carry some kind of germs which can cause infection. When it comes to reptiles, salmonella is the biggest risk.
In fact, even if you are not bitten, it is a good idea to always wash your hands after interacting with any pet. Especially ones which may increase your chance of getting some illnesses as it is the case with reptiles and amphibians.
If you ever notice any signs of infection, especially at the sight of the injury, stay on the safe side and visit the doctor. They will be able to let you know if something is wrong.
While geckos are not considered a dangerous pet, any open wound has the potential to become infected.
Do Gecko Bites Hurt?
Aside from any potential long-term effects that you may be nervous about, there are some other things you may want to consider. The more immediate question when getting “attacked” by any pet involves how much it will hurt.
Well, most likely you won’t feel anything other than a bit of pressure. Their very sharp teeth may sting a bit if they break the skin, but this is not something you normally need to worry about.
Even if they do end up biting you, they are not really malicious and will only do so if they feel threatened.
More than likely they will bite and let go rather than hold on to you and try to shake you violently.
This means that it will be over before you even know what’s happening – like having a very VERY tiny bandage ripped off.
Ultimately, geckos are cute reptiles that are popular for their appearance of smiling.
These make popular pets, and very few ownerd are ever concerned of a bite from them.
Geckos have teeth; in fact, they are important for their survival and play a key role in catching and keeping hold of prey.
While the number of teeth vary by species, all geckos are born with teeth and they are equally shaped as sharp pointy cones.
If you own a pet gecko, or are looking to get one, its important to note that they can nip at you. While this is not generally overly painful, it’s good to be aware of ahead of time. Thankfully, domesticated geckos are not poisonous reducing the dangers that these pet lizards bring.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.