View Full Version : How would a human eat with sharp teeth?

10-04-2011, 05:38 PM
My main character undergoes a transformation that makes his teeth sharper. I know that humans have flat teeth so that they can chew food, and that sharp carnivore teeth (like dogs' teeth) are meant for grabbing/tearing into food. Human saliva begins to break down food in the mouth, while animals like dogs start to digest things in the stomach (which is why they can just swallow things down).

If I gave my main character flat molars, would that mean he would be able to chew his food? Incisors cut things up and so surely sharp teeth wouldn't be that different? I'm thinking of giving my main character sharp teeth and then allowing him to digest things extremely quickly.

I'm just wondering, is there anything I've missed here? Are there any implications of having sharp teeth (problems, benefits, adaptations that carnivores have made which humans haven't) that I'm overlooking?

10-04-2011, 06:05 PM
Very carefully.

(someone had to say it)

I would think so long as the character has grinding teeth, they'd be fine, once they learnt not to nibble their lips or bite the inside of their mouths, should those be among their habits.

10-04-2011, 07:03 PM
First misconception... saliva is not used to digest food at all. It may start the process off but the main function of the amylase in saliva is actually to clean the teeth of starch after you finish eating. No significant digestion occurs in the mouth apart from mechanical chewing (and dogs will do this if you watch them, just not as much as humans do).

Second point... why would all the teeth become sharp? There are three forms of dentition to consider here:

Carnivore: Sharp 'pointy' canines which are longer than most of the other teeth, a number of incisors in the front which are chisel shaped for cleaning bones of meat (and also for cleaning fur of blood - most animals use these teeth for cleaning rather than eating) and what are known as 'carnassials' in the back which are basically molars with sharper bits on used for crushing bones and grinding meat.

Herbivore: Chisel like incisors at the front for chopping plant material (mainly used for taking that initial bite to remove a leaf from a plant or part of a vegetable) and many, very flat molars at the back which are used for grinding tough plant cell walls.

Omnivore: A mix of the above. Incisors and canines are more or less as the carnivore but the canines are smaller in general and don't protrude over the other teeth. Molars at the back are smaller than those in herbivores and while they do have sharp pointy bits (check it out, run your tongue over them and feel the sharpness) they aren't as pointy as carnivores. Nor are they as flat as herbivore molars. These adaptations are because omnivores eat a variety of meat and plant tissue. We can't digest either as well as a dedicated animal (we can't, for example, gain any benefit from eating grass as our ability to get energy from cellulose is low - about 5% - nor can we crack open bones with our bare teeth and get at the marrow) but we can survive on a broader range of nutrition sources.

Now, you have to ask yourself which teeth are made sharp. All of them? Or just some? You could emphasise the canines - make them sharper and protrude more - and make the molars more like carnassials. However, remember that you need to think about metaphysics here - what is the magic or similar process at work here? Bearing in mind that teeth are usually permanent tissue and therefore difficult to change easily.

Also you would need to consider the problems of large canines and possibly pointy carnassials. Do the canines retract as some vampire teeth do? Do the carnassials catch on the inside of his mouth when he chews and cause damage (if you've ever had wisdom teeth grow in you may know that sometimes it takes a while to get used to the extra teeth and they sometimes cause ulcers from where they bite into the side of the mouth). I think there would be a period of adjustment for anyone who underwent any major dental change like this, especially if it were sudden.

10-04-2011, 07:14 PM
Animals with sharp teeth rip and gulp, they chew very little and with an open mouth

10-05-2011, 02:42 AM
Carnivores are able to digest animal protein quickly because it has no cell walls to break down. Their digestive systems are shorter. I think dogs have about 6 feet of intestine vs. humans' 30-ish feet or so.

If you cook or grind plant material that breaks down the cell walls. That's why dogs can digest things like peanut butter but peanuts pass straight through them.

Your character would probably be fine eating most things. He might have problems digesting raw veggies or grains like whole corn if he can't chew them properly, but if you give him some molars that would solve the problem.

10-10-2011, 08:46 PM
Anyone who's had 4 impacted wisdom teeth extracted will be able to verify that you can chew food with incisors and premolars. It just takes longer and you have to take smaller bites.