Do Tortoises Have Teeth

Do Tortoises Have Teeth?

When we look at tortoises, we often wonder how they survived for such a long period. The apparent protection being their giant hard shell that covers the rest of their body. But there slow and a little cumbersome at times, unlike a crocodile that has survived on earth for the same amount of time. We know a crocodile as big sharp teeth that help them survive, so do tortoises have teeth that have helped them survive for so long?

No tortoises do not have teeth as their diet doesn’t require them to break down solid foods in preparation for swallowing and digesting. Instead, tortoise mouths have a hard edge very similar to a bird’s beak and use saliva to help gulp down their food. 

Ok, so no teeth; this leaves us with even more questions, and you will find that is always the case with this fascinating animal. How do tortoises eat their food with no teeth, you may wonder as you have to chew food, right? Well, we dig down on how having no teeth plays a significant role in their eating habits.   

No Teeth for Tortoises

Having no teeth to us seems strange as we need them to bite and chew our food in preparation for swallowing and the digestion of the food. Knowing a tortoise doesn’t have teeth seems alien to us and makes us wonder how they eat. 

Despite tortoises having no teeth there mouths are built perfectly for chomping down on their food. Their mouths are made very similarly to a bird’s beak with a tough edge that allows them to chew onto food effectively. 

But with no teeth, other things need to fall into place for the tortoise, and that’s where their diet comes into play. Like their diet needs to fit perfectly, or this mouth would be impractical, and the tortoise wouldn’t be able to eat.

Classic Tortoise Diet Requires No Teeth

Tortoises are herbivores, so their diet exclusively is made up of plants. Tortoise diets of grass flowers and a little fruit. A diet that plays a crucial role in them having no teeth and just a hard mouth like a bird.

If the tortoise diet consisted of hard foods, then their mouth would cause the tortoise great difficulties in eating their food. The mouth set up and not having teeth would have caused the tortoise to become instinct, I’m sure, if their diet was vastly different. 

The other thing that plays into the tortoise’s favor with not having teeth is how they take their food into their digestion system. 

Some will ask can tortoises eat meat; this is a whole new post by itself due to their digestion and other problems than just the mouth. 

No Chewing for Tortoises

As humans, we use our teeth to chew our food until it’s all mashed up and then swallow it to take it into our system. With tortoises not having teeth, it leaves us wondering how do tortoises process the food for digestion. 

The mouth is built to allow them to bite down on their food pretty effectively, but with no teeth tortoises, don’t chew their food. 

Once a tortoise takes the food into their mouth, humans who use our teeth and saliva to break down the food for digestion are unlike us. A tortoise only has saliva to break down its food.

When the food enters the tortoise mouth, salivary glands start to produce saliva that helps break down the food. The saliva helps make their food smoother and slippy, and much easier to gulp down.

Tortoises tend to swallow their food in whole pieces as they have no chewability. Seeing a tortoise eat it can appear they are chewing their food. However, what they are doing is combining all their food with the saliva to gulp down. 

Have Tortoises Ever Had Teeth?

We know now that tortoises don’t have teeth but have they ever had teeth?

Yes, tortoises once had teeth before evolution took effect. Prehistoric specimens that have been found show that tortoises once had teeth. Tortoises that once had teeth are long from instinct, and it is thought they become instinct in the Late Triassic period.

Why tortoises would lose their teeth would be the next question we need to ask. Anything that is from the Late Triassic period involves an amount of guesswork. 

Earth would have been a vastly different place back then. Grasses and plants would have been a lot less frequent, so they may have needed to turn to more challenging foods.

With harder foods, you can assume you need teeth and a system to handle the digestion. We can assume that the tortoise mouth has changed with evolution and its internal structure if we make that assumption. 


Tortoises are fascinating reptiles that have evolved over the years. We can assume that evolution has been a good thing due to their lifespan and how they have outlived many other animals and reptiles that have long been instinct. 

Having no teeth causes the tortoise no problems, and they do a great job at digesting their foods. Despite what our parents used to tell us to chew or foods, the tortoise is completely the opposite. 

Tortoises with their hard shells have us asking many questions about all manner of things, and we have many other questions that you may have regards tortoises, which I have answered on our site that are well worth checking out like do tortoise have tails.