Iguanas are interesting reptiles; with similarities but many striking differences to us humans and to other animals. So much so that we even begin to wonder and question body parts that they do and do not have. One of these is teeth. Do they have these calcified structures? The answer is particularly interesting!
So, do iguanas have teeth? Iguanas do have teeth; around 80-120 in total. Iguanas are born with teeth, albeit small and virtually transparent. As iguanas grow, their almost translucent teeth get bigger and more opaque. These lizards will also routinely shed and replace their teeth throughout their lifetimes.
Biological scientists have been studying the evolution and development of teeth for many years.
While there is a lot to be said about teeth; one of the most common factors and primary purposes of teeth is for crushing food.
Green iguanas, for example, have very sharp teeth that are proficient at tearing leaves.
This is ideal because they have a mostly vegetarian diet in the wild.
It comes as no surprise to learn that iguanas have developed teeth over the course of their evolution to ensure that they can consume and extract maximum nutrition and energy from their environment.
Let us now explore the topic further so you can get a better understanding of the type of teeth iguanas to have, how many they possess, and some other interesting facts about what their teeth look like and whether an iguana would look to bite you!
While this sounds very scientific, these two terms simply distinguish between the different styles and shapes of teeth.
Pleurodont teeth comprise long roots that are lightly attached to the mandible (lower jawbone).
There are no sockets. Lizards that have Pleurodont teeth will experience the fall and regrowth of new teeth throughout their lifetime.
Acrododnt teeth have short roots that are firmly attached to the jawbone, and they keep the same teeth throughout their lifetime.
So as you can see, one type of teeth is long – and they do not last for a lizard’s lifetime, whereas the other is short and lasts for the lifetime of the species.
Teeth are advantageous to lizards as it helps them to eat a range of different foods that are suited to their size and native to their location.
Teeth of course are used to grind down various plant matter and enable a lizard to consume wild foliage that would otherwise be difficult to break down.
How Many Teeth Do Iguanas Have?
Each quadrant of an iguana’s mouth has between 20 to 30 teeth; these teeth replace themselves as often as five times a year. So in total, an iguana can have from as few as 80 to 120 teeth on average.
Consider that as teeth are constantly falling out and regrowing, so an iguana is unlikely to have a set amount at any one time.
Iguanas have a speedy rate of teeth replacement. It may shock you to learn that a medium-sized Iguana replaces up to 500 teeth a year.
One of the benefits of being a pleurodont species is that dental disease is rare because teeth continually shed and replaced themselves with a new set.
Iguanas are born with teeth, albeit small and virtually transparent.
As iguanas grow, their almost translucent teeth get bigger and more opaque. The teeth of this species, allow them to harvest leaves quickly.
What Do Iguanas Teeth Look Like?
Iguanas have pleurodont teeth that grow attached to the side of the inside of the mandible.
When iguanas are young, their teeth are practically transparent and get more opaque and bigger with age.
To get a clearer picture of what iguana teeth look like, imagine a bread knife, bent into a half-diamond, with all its serrated tips pointing outward, this is a close-up of a single, iguana tooth.
Iguana teeth are shaped like leaves, in that they are broad and flat with serrations along the edge, they resemble little triangles.
The location of the teeth is on the inner sides of the mandible; in smaller species, it can be hard to see them.
The image below shows a picture of a diseased green iguana. Here you can get an understanding of what their teeth look like and their general alignment,
Can Iguanas Bite You?
Iguanas teeth are sharp, and they have powerful jaws equipped for cleanly tearing off plants.
Unfortunately, iguanas are known to bite people and other pets. The jaws of these reptiles can put extreme pressure on their targets, and their bites can be very painful. Iguanas don’t bite out of malice; it is generally out of self-defense.
Iguanas warn their potential victims before they bite, what they do is stand up on their front legs. Leaning forward helps them to access the distance, then iguanas will bob their heads to appear larger.
This animal will bite more than once and won’t only puncture your skin, but rather tear your skin. Iguana bites are nasty, and stitches are usually required afterward.
If an iguana bites you, you must thoroughly wash the wound with soap and hot water.
Seek medical assistance straight after an iguana bite, the reason being, that the mouths and feces of these reptiles contain salmonella.
In the meantime, it is recommended that you apply some antiseptic to the wound to clear out any bacteria.
A Hydrogen Peroxide Topical Solution is perhaps the best option; you can get some from Amazon on prime for a great price.
If you own a pet iguana or any young children for that matter, this is a handy product to have about the house.
That way, if any wound was to occur, you can quickly prevent bacteria from getting inside and risking infection.
If you live in an area where wild iguanas are known to roam, the safest thing to do is call your local wildlife experts. They will know how to safely and effectively remove them from your property in a safe and humane way.
Oral Care For Your Iguana
While dental diseases are rare in iguanas because of their pleurodont teeth, they can suffer from and get dental diseases on occasion.
Iguanas occasionally fall prey to mouth rot – this is the most common dental infection in many reptiles.
Mouth rot occurs when food becomes stuck in their teeth and rots, or there are small cuts in their gums or mouth.
If you don’t treat mouth rot in time, the infection could be fatal to your iguana.
On a more positive note, mouth rot is easy to monitor and manage.
You must regularly check your iguana’s mouth for food stuck between their gums and teeth and be on the lookout for any cuts in the oral tissue.
Look out for the signs of mouth rot and contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- No interest in food
- Reduced intake of water
- Swelling gums and mouth tissue
- Swelling of the face
- Swelling of the head ( commonly in more advanced cases)
- Thicker saliva
- Yellow plaques in soft mouth tissue
- Yellow pus in and around the mouth
Treating Your Iguana’s Dental Infection
Your vet will prescribe antibiotics and show you how to clean the infected areas of your iguana’s mouth correctly.
You must treat this problem with the severity it deserves, as it could be fatal for your iguana if left unchecked.
Do not fail to seek professional veterinary attention; never medicate your pet yourself.
Preventing Dental Infections
The most convenient way to avoid mouth rot is by taking your iguana for annual checkups.
Be diligent in caring for your reptile; make sure to keep the same temperature and humidity levels in their living space and enclosure.
Feed your iguana a nutritious and plentiful diet, examine your pet’s mouth to see if there is any food or substrate stuck inside.
You must be very gentle when checking your pet’s mouth as it is easy to break or damage their jaws. Alternatively, you could end up injuring another part of their body during this procedure.
Be slow and careful, as any sudden movements could stress and shock them, resulting in a bite.
If you have never checked inside your iguana’s mouth before, ask your vet for tips on how to handle and control them.
So, Iguanas do have teeth; quite a few of them at that.
Iguanas have strong little teeth that are incredibly sharp. This combined with their forceful jaws, helps them to tear leaves and plants.
However, due to their power, they can easily hurt their owners and other animals too.
Iguanas don’t usually lash out, but when they bite, it is mostly out of self-defense because they feel threatened. They can be quite dangerous, in that respect.
Like any animal with teeth, they require dental care, regular checkups, and ongoing maintenance.
Mouth rot is one of the most common oral diseases among reptiles. Thankfully, with knowledge, this disease can be easily prevented, and your iguana will live a happy life for many years to come.
Iguanas have venom glands that produce weak harmless venom. However, this will not be transmitted to you even during a bite. Instead, iguanas have very sharp serrated teeth which can cause deep wounds and injuries. These wounds can become infected. Iguanas can also transmit bacteria from their mouths during a bite.
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.