Do Llamas Have Top Teeth? (Answer)

Photo: Nata Dobrovolskaya / Shutterstock

The face of a llama shows large and long, visible teeth protruding from the bottom jaw with a cleft lip.

However, you cannot see the same size protruding from the top as matching pairs, much like you might see in other mammals.

Llamas do not have top teeth in the front upper gum line. They have a hard palate here for working with the lower incisor teeth to grip and tear vegetation. 

Llamas have a total of 30 to 32 teeth in their mouths, which also include premolars and molars for grinding food further back in the upper jaw. Additionally, llamas have sharp, curved fighting teeth that develop as they mature, found in both the mid-lower and upper jaws.

This informative article will discuss the anatomy of a llama’s mouth and teeth system. Additionally, you’ll learn how these teeth help llamas digest food and fight.

Llama Mouth Anatomy

The mouth anatomy of a llama is necessary for obtaining their herbivore diets, such as grasses and other vegetation. 

A llama has a top, front dental pad, and incisors on the bottom to work with it. The back teeth (molars and premolars) grind up the food for digestion.

Top Front Dental Pad

A toothless, rubber-like pad or plate is found in the top, upper front of a llama’s mouth. This pad is located above the lower six incisors. 

This combination allows the llamas to effectively grip, and tear vegetation from the ground. 

Their tongues push the food back to premolars and molars for grinding before swallowing the material for digestion.

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Types Of Llama Teeth

While there are no top teeth in the front part of a llama’s mouth, they do have various teeth on the top found mid-jaw line and back. They also have a full set of teeth on the bottom of their mouths.

Similar to other mammals, llamas are diphyodont. They have deciduous (baby) teeth that fall out and are replaced with permanent, adult teeth. 

Once mature, llamas will have 30 to 32 adult teeth. Sometimes, a pair of premolars do not erupt in llamas.

Each table below shows the type of teeth that are found in the lower and upper jaws of a llama, as well as their functions.

Upper Jaw

Type Of TeethFound In The Jaw?Number Of PairsEruption Age (Permanent)Function
Incisors (front teeth)NoNot applicableNot applicable (A dental pad is found in the top of the mouth)
Fighting teethYes2 pairs18 months to 7 years (average 2.5 years)Sharp and pointed to inflict pain and damage against other llamas (or people)
Premolars (bicuspid)Yes1 to 2 pairs6 months to 2 yearsGrinding food
MolarsYes3 pairs6 months to 2 yearsGrinding food

Lower Jaw

Type Of TeethFound In The Jaw?Number Of PairsEruption Age (Permanent)Function
Incisors (front teeth)Yes3 pairsCentral: 2.5 years

Middle: 3 to 3.5 years

Corner: 4 to 6 years
Work in conjunction with the top dental pad for gripping and tearing vegetation off of the ground and stems

Covered with protective enamel
Fighting teethYes1 pair18 months to 7 years (average 2.5 years)Sharp and pointed to inflict pain and damage against other llamas (or people)
PremolarsYes1 to 2 pairs6 months to 2 yearsGrinding food
MolarsYes3 pairs6 months to 2 yearsGrinding food

Fighting Teeth: A Closer Look

These teeth are not used for eating and digestion.  

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Fighting teeth, particularly in males, grow large as they mature. They can be found in females and gelded (castrated) males, however, they are rudimentary and small. 

These teeth will continuously grow and are hooked and angled back. Farmers or owners of domesticated llamas will file or cut them down or fully remove them surgically. Filing of these teeth generally only needs to be twice in a llama’s life.

Males will use their fighting teeth to bite and tear ears, injure and cut legs, and castrate other competing males in the herd. They may also use them to hurt a person if they don’t like being handled.

Overall Tooth Care

Domesticated llamas need human intervention for dental care for a variety of reasons.  


If llamas have overly long front incisors that are misaligned or do not connect with the dental pad, the llamas may have feeding difficulties in seizing or grasping food. 

If this is the case, the incisors may be filed down.

Baby Teeth Issues

If baby (deciduous) teeth do not fall out, the tooth can be pulled for the permanent tooth to erupt. Young llamas, particularly males, will fight and have chipped or broken baby teeth. 

A veterinarian can check for any signs of infection, and remove teeth as needed.


Infections can occur in the mouths of llamas as well. They may present as a firm, bony-like lump on the llama’s cheek or jaw. 

This issue can be evaluated by a veterinarian with x-rays, surgical intervention, tooth removal, and antibiotics.

Aging Teeth

As a llama ages, they will lose permanent teeth due to loosening or infection. This can lead to a painful mouth or poor grinding and digestion. 

This in turn can affect the llama’s ability to eat enough food. In extreme cases of poor nutrition or inadequate chewing, the llama will require a soft diet.

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Llama Digestion

The anatomy of the llama’s mouth is not only used for fighting but is essential for its survival, as it harvests food for digestion.

Llamas, belonging to the Camelidae family, closely resemble ruminants. Ruminants are animals that chew cud that is regurgitated from their rumen (first stomach/compartment). 

The digestive system of a llama is unique in that it has only one stomach, but with three compartments, considered a pseudo-ruminant.  

In a llama, the first (and largest) compartment is about 80% of the stomach’s volume. Here fermentation takes place in the gut to break down plant cellulose into digestible nutrients for about 60 hours. 

Then, the material moves to the next section (about 9% of the stomach), absorbing some nutrients. 

Belching and regurgitation occur for final digestion, passing well-broken down material into the third section, about 11% of the stomach.

In Conclusion

Llamas do not have top teeth, but they do have a total of 30 to 32 teeth located in their mouths.  

The top, front of a llama’s mouth has a firm dental pad that works in conjunction with the bottom front incisor teeth to pull and tear vegetation from its roots.

Other teeth exist from mid-jaw and back. Back premolar and molar teeth sit in pairs for grinding vegetation into a cud-like texture for digestion. 

Males grow large, pointy, curved fighting teeth for gaining dominance and attacking other llamas. Females and castrated males will also grow these teeth but tend to be rudimentary.

Fighting teeth need to be filed down or removed since they continuously grow. 

Llamas may also need dental care for issues such as infected or misaligned teeth, especially if the incisors do not work well with the dental pad.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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