Do Iguanas Have Teeth? The Full Guide


So, the question I’m going to answer for you today is whether or not Iguanas have teeth. Now, if you plan on owning one as a pet, then having this type of information is kind of important.

Iguanas do have teeth. They have between 80 and 120 short, serrated teeth and are very capable of inflicting an injury on human skin. Their teeth are continually regrowing and regenerating, so an iguana can have as many as 500 over the course of a year.

But that doesn’t tell the full story about what is going on with the teeth of an Iguana. So, what is the story?

Well, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about iguanas, how to care for their teeth, and so much more.

Iguana on the grass

Iguanas and Their Teeth

Their teeth are razor-sharp, but as they are largely going to eat plants, they aren’t like the teeth you would find on any meat-eater.

However, that’s not to say that it won’t hurt if they go ahead and bite you. This is not something that they will actively want to do, but they can be prone to lashing out if the situation arises.

Also, the number of teeth that they have can vary to a certain extent. In general, the mouth of an Iguana is split up into four sections. Each section can have anywhere from 20 to 30 teeth, so that means their mouth can have between 80 and 120 teeth. [Source]

Now, that’s a huge difference, but there’s no real physical reason as to why this happens with any individual Iguana.

Iguanas are Born with Teeth

But here’s a nice little fact to take into consideration. An Iguana is born with teeth, and they are going to be razor-sharp right from the outset. 

However, that’s not the only thing that stands out when you look at the teeth of a baby Iguana and then compare them to an adult.

As a baby, their teeth are almost translucent, but they are still sharp. As the Iguana gets older, their teeth do become more opaque, and they do grow in size just in the same way as our teeth do when we replace our baby teeth with our adult teeth.

More on What Iguana Teeth Look Like

For now, we should stay on the topic of telling you more about what their teeth look like, as it’s fascinating the way in which they come through in their mouth compared to other animals.

I already said about them being translucent as a baby, and then changing color, but that’s only part of the story.

When the Iguana grows its teeth, it does so on the inside of its mandible. That means, on the inside of its jaw. If you check out more information on this, then you may also see reference to the Iguana having pleurodont teeth. That’s just a fancy way of saying they replace their teeth on a regular basis, so we have already covered that earlier.

But what do their teeth look like from a shape perspective?

Well, the shape is a bit harder to explain. They are slightly serrated, with the points of each edge sticking out.

They are also in a bit of a half-diamond shape, so you can see how it’s not that easy to get an overall picture of what their teeth look like without physically looking at an example. [Source]

Perhaps the best way of describing their teeth is that they are quite triangular in shape. They are broad and flat, so it can come as a bit of a surprise to some when they can leave such a nasty bite as they don’t even sound that impressive.

However, please don’t think that because you would be so wrong in jumping to that particular conclusion.

Why are The Teeth Of Iguanas So Sharp?

I said earlier on that their teeth are razor-sharp, but why is that the case? 

Well, the truth is that they need these teeth to effectively grab onto those leaves and plants before scything through the foliage. It’s as simple as that.

As a result, their teeth are multi-purpose. They also use them to grind down the foliage to make it easier for them to digest it, and that’s only going to be able to happen when things are in a sort of a mushy state.

So, they use their teeth in order to eat, but there are still some other facts surrounding their teeth that I need to explore with you.

They Use Their Teeth to Defend Themselves

It also makes sense that the Iguana is going to use its teeth to help defend itself against not only predators but also other Iguanas. They do use their tail to help with all of this, but having these sharp teeth is a real bonus.

The teeth of an Iguana will find it quite easy to burst through the skin of various animals. They will even be able to do it to our skin, and our skin is quite tough compared to most.

Iguanas Replace Their Teeth

But let’s move on to something else that is pretty astonishing when it comes to learning all about Iguanas and their teeth, and that’s the fact that they are capable of replacing their teeth.

Now, I’m not talking about one or two teeth over the course of their lifetime here. I’m also not comparing it to the way in which we humans have our baby teeth, and then other teeth replace them as we grow.

Oh no, the Iguana is far more sophisticated than that.

In fact, a fully-grown adult Iguana could replace as many as 500 teeth over the course of a year. Yep, you read that right, in a single year.

That is astonishing, but it shows that this is a constant thing for them. It also means that those figures I gave you earlier on regarding the number of teeth an iguana has in their mouth is also something that fluctuates. 

It’s easy for an Iguana to have just over 80 teeth in their mouth one month, and then over 100 another month. That would not be unusual, even though it sounds very strange to us.

Iguanas Don’t Really Suffer From Dental Disease

As an Iguana replaces their teeth on a regular basis, it also means that they are not that troubled by dental disease. 

That makes sense when you stop and think about it. A tooth comes through, does its job, falls out, and is replaced by another one that may not even be in the exact same position. 

It means that tooth is not going to last too long in the mouth of the Iguana, so it doesn’t have long enough to develop decay in the way that our teeth manage to break and decay over time.

But then they do still need to replace their teeth, or they would simply die in the wild. Their teeth keep them alive, and they need them to stay razor sharp to help them with their diet. The last thing they would need is to suffer from dental disease and feel as if they were unable to eat.

So far, I’ve spoken about what they look like, what they use their teeth for, and also how many times they can replace them. But what about you, their owner? What should you look out for when it comes to a bite from your Iguana?

Caring For Iguana Teeth

Even though they don’t often suffer from dental issues, that’s not going to be true 100% of the time. So, how do you care for their teeth, and what are the sorts of issues you should be looking out for?

The most common issue is known as dental rot. However, when I say that it’s common, I don’t mean 1 out of every 2 Iguanas will suffer from it.

Mouth rot is going to develop when an Iguana has some food stuck between its teeth. Alternatively, if they have some cuts on their gums, then rotten food can create bacteria that then works its way into the tissue.

That’s at the point where mouth rot could possibly develop.

But here’s the worrying problem. If you do not get your Iguana help with mouth rot, then it could lead to it turning into a fatal disease for your Iguana. This is sad when it’s easy to treat if you take them to a vet early enough.

So, what do you do?

Sleeping iguana in a tree

Looking for and Preventing Mouth Rot

The best approach is to check the mouth of your Iguana regularly for any food stuck between their teeth. Then, if you see any of these symptoms, then it’s best to call your vet in order to get some treatment.

The first sign is if your Iguana is starting to lose interest in both water as well as food. Your Iguana should always have an interest in both these things, so that’s not a good sign.

The next thing is to go ahead and check for any swelling in not only their gum, but also their face. 

Finally, be on the lookout for some yellow pus around their mouth. That is a surefire sign of an infection taking hold, and it also means that the problem is becoming more advanced.

Of course, you should be taking your Iguana to the vet for a regular check-up anyway, and that’s going to involve checking their mouth. However, it’s still important to do so yourself to prevent any problems from developing in the meantime.

Caring for Iguana Teeth – The Diet

As a responsible owner, you want to do all you can to look after the teeth of your Iguana, and that’s going to partly involve dealing with their diet. 

It must contain the correct nutrition for them to not only survive, but also thrive. They need those nutrients to keep their body healthy, and it means they are in a far better position when it comes to dealing with any potential infection in their gums that may try to take hold.

Feed them lots of plants, and then check their teeth later for any food. By doing this, you should be able to keep on top of any potential teeth issues. 

How to Check Without Hurting Them

Moving on from how their diet can help, you need to know how to check their mouth without hurting them. You cannot simply hold their jaw, pull it open, and peer inside. That could damage their jaw, and then you have a whole host of problems that need to be addressed.

The key is to make sure that they feel relaxed in your company. You then need to be very slow in your movements, because doing anything too fast is going to lead to them being very scared. The last thing you want to happen is them jerking, because you scared them, as that increases the chances of them being hurt.

So, the only way to do all of this is going to be slow and steady. If your Iguana relaxes as you talk to them, then make sure you do that as well, since it does make a difference to how they will feel when you try to check out their mouth.

An Iguana and its Powerful Bite

Even if we are talking about a relatively small Iguana, the bite that it packs is still going to be rather surprising to new owners. We are talking about a lizard that is capable of causing some damage to you, and they won’t be afraid to lash out at different times.

However, let me clear up a key point.

Your pet Iguana is not going to generally just lunge at you and try to bite you without some sort of provocation. They will be feeling under stress or scared, and they will try and put in almost a pre-emptive strike in order to protect themselves. 

Their jaws are powerful, and that translates into a lot of pressure being put on the bite area. That, along with their sharp teeth, can lead to the skin being broken and blood appearing. 

If that happens, you need to assess the bite immediately. Remember that bacteria is in the mouth of your Iguana, and it’s going to be in the saliva that’s left on the wound. Get yourself treated to stop any potential problems developing in the future.

One of the main problems with their mouth is that it does contain Salmonella. Now, that’s probably going to make you feel pretty ill if you get it into your body, and that’s why you need medical attention immediately.

Anyway, let’s get back to talking about the bite part.

Warning Signs Before Iguanas Bite

Like I just mentioned, your Iguana is not going to simply lunge at you without any warning. Instead, your Iguana will give off more than enough signals that they could end up biting you if the situation does not change.

Generally, they will stand up on their front legs. Then, they will move their head around in an attempt to make their head appear larger than it really is. 

If you see them making these sorts of movements, then be aware that a bite could be on its way unless you back off.

Their Bite

But another warning as their bite is not only going to go ahead and manage to puncture your skin. Instead, they will use their teeth to practically rip and tear at your skin, as they can then manage to take chunks out of your skin.

That’s going to cause even more damage than you would with some other animal that merely leaves some puncture wounds. 

Chances are that you will need to get some stitches on those cuts in order to treat them.

The Summary

So, I’ve covered a lot here, so a quick summary to run over the main points is going to be best.

Your Iguana could have 80 teeth at one point, and then they could have as many as 120 teeth at another point. Also, they could go through as many as 500 teeth in a single year, even though this number is rare.

Their teeth are sharp with serrated edges, and they are used to mash up and rip through foliage as part of their diet. However, they will use their teeth to defend and bite if the situation calls for it.

As their teeth are replaced on an almost constant basis, they don’t tend to suffer from dental issues, but mouth rot can occur. Simply pay attention to any food build-up in their mouth, or look for cuts to their gums where bacteria can get in.

Finally, get their teeth checked out by your vet on a regular basis. This should form part of their health check-up anyway, as problems such as mouth rot can be fatal, which is sad considering it’s also preventable and treatable at the same time.

Barry Gray

Barry is a freelance writer from Scotland. He has written about pets for over a decade, and his work has been turned into a range of ebooks, courses, and material for diplomas. Barry is passionate about all animals, but particularly dogs, fish, rabbits, birds and spiders. You can find out more about Barry at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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