Bird Acts as Nature’s Dentist

To help us keep our teeth healthy, it’s recommended that we get regular cleanings at the dentist, but how do animals do it? A recent article has brought to light the adorable relationship between a giraffe and a red-billed oxpecker. Although the giraffe doesn’t seem to be the sort who loves visiting the dentist, this type of relationship is good for both animals.

Symbiotic Relationships

This is actually a great example of a symbiotic relationships in nature. Symbiosis occurs when two organisms interact and live in close proximity with each other, and can be further broken down into the type of relationship that the organisms have. The red-billed oxpecker cleaning the giraffe’s teeth is an example of mutualism because both the giraffe and the bird are benefitting. The giraffe has clean healthy teeth that are free of leftover food debris, and the bird is getting an easy risk-free meal. The giraffe obviously isn’t going to eat the bird and nothing is going to try and climb up a giraffe to eat a bird!

Oxpecker on a giraffe's head

The funny thing is, this isn’t even the only example of an animal cleaning another animal’s teeth. In Egypt, the Nile crocodile and the Egyptian plover bird have a similar relationship. The bird hangs onto the crocodile’s open mouth and eats any leftover food that might be there, and the crocodile gets clean teeth. This scenario is very interesting because it would seem like the crocodile would value an easy meal over clean teeth, but clearly the crocodile wants to avoid pain from poor dental health as much as we do!

There are even incidents where animals clean people’s teeth, such as a white-banded cleaner shrimp cleaning a scuba diver’s teeth. These shrimp are known for cleaning the insides of certain fish’s mouths at pre-arranged cleaning stations. The scuba diver simply imitated these fish and the shrimp got to work!

Need a Cleaning?

While there are animals that exist in nature that will seemingly jump at the chance to clean teeth, it may be more feasible for you to visit a dentist rather than try to get a squirrel to climb into your mouth. If you find yourself in Centennial, CO and need a dentist, please call Park Meadows Dental Care at (303) 759-5652 today!