How Do Turkeys Eat Without Teeth?

When you look at a picture of a turkey, or when you cook one, you can’t help but notice how plump some of these birds are. Truthfully, it’s not that much of a wondrous sight — until you realize one thing: these turkeys, like many birds, don’t even have teeth! So how on earth do these birds get so big when they are missing molars? If you’ve ever pondered this esoteric question, you’ve come to the right place! In honor of Thanksgiving, this article will tell you how exactly these birds miraculously manage to eat without any teeth.

colorful, strutting turkey able to eat without teeth

Step One

The turkey finds a food item such as an acorn, which can be challenging to eat without teeth. So its body begins to “improvise.” Like all birds, it picks up the food using their beaks. This is actually important, because by doing so, they secrete their saliva onto the food. This is how it starts to break down.

Step Two

It turns out turkeys actually have two stomachs, which contain some incredibly strong acids that further break down food for them. The first stomach is called the glandular stomach, where the food is softened and broken down by gastric juices. The food then enters the turkey’s second stomach, which is the gizzard.

Step Three

There, instead of teeth, turkeys use stones to eat their food. How? Well, turkeys enjoy eating just about anything. These can range from “normal” foods such as berries to “abnormal” foods like sand and gravel. One of these more atypical meals are stones. When consumed, these stones end up in the gizzard. While there, the stones turn into gastroliths. This helps turkeys grind food, thereby allowing the rest of the system to absorb the nutrients.

Now that we’ve shared this bit of turkey trivia with you, Dr. Gallagher and his team here at Overland Park Family Dental sincerely wish you a happy and festive Thanksgiving season. Feel free to contact us anytime you need us, or when it’s time for your next checkup.
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