Do Turtles Have Beaks or Teeth?

Turtles can be funny little creatures, but that is what makes them so unique and loveable. Turtles have strange, small mouths that sort of replicate the look of a bird’s beak. This can lead people to wonder, do turtles have beaks?

The short answer is yes! Turtles and tortoises do actually have beaks. Turtles come in many shapes and sizes, and different turtle species use their beaks for different purposes.

a closeup image of a turtle beak

For instance, carnivorous turtles will have a much sharper beak and will use it to successfully catch and kill their prey, whereas a herbivorous turtle will have a flatter beak perfect for crushing and flattening plants for them to eat.

Turtles and tortoises use their beaks to consume their food as they do not actually have any teeth! Therefore, a turtle’s beak must be kept in the best condition possible, and will sometimes need regular trimming.

Turtle and Tortoise Beaks

Some turtles do not really need their beaks trimmed, such as aquatic turtles, however, box turtles and other species of tortoises will need their beaks trimmed regularly.

If a turtle or tortoise beak seems to be extending down past its jaw, then it will need trimming and will have to be maintained properly for your turtle’s wellbeing.

You can also utilize a cuttlebone or a tortoise block to help prevent overgrown beaks:

Zoo Med Turtle Bone

Zoo Med Turtle Bone, Pack of 2, .1 LB

Zoo Med Laboratories SZMBB55 Tortoise Banquet Block

Zoo Med Laboratories SZMBB55 Tortoise Banquet Block, Net WT 5 oz

However, you can also trim a turtle or tortoise beak yourself to keep your little reptile happy.

How to Trim a Turtle or Tortoise’s Beak

Whilst you can trim a tortoise beak down yourself, we recommend that you seek the help of a veterinarian or a professional, as they will be able to do so much quicker, and can sedate the reptile so that it is not so difficult or traumatizing.

If you are an experienced carer of tortoises, and you can do it yourself safely, then there are a few steps that you can follow. First, you will need a Dremel tool to trim the tortoise beak down a little. This can be found here:

Dremel Lite 7760 N/10 4V Li-Ion Cordless Rotary Tool Variable Speed Multi-Purpose Rotary Tool Kit

Dremel Lite 7760 N/10 4V Li-Ion Cordless Rotary Tool Variable Speed Multi-Purpose Rotary Tool Kit, USB Charging, Easy Accessory Changes - Perfect For Light-Duty DIY & Crafting

You will also require a Dremel 952 sanding tool to properly trim down the beak.

Dremel 952 Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone, 3/8″ (9.5mm), Sharpening & Grinding Rotary Tool Accessory

Dremel 952 Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone, 3/8' (9.5mm), Sharpening & Grinding Rotary Tool Accessory (1 Piece) , Green

We also recommend that you have an assistant to help hold the turtle or tortoise to stop it from squirming and crawling away. It may also attempt to hide its head in its shell, and so an extra pair of helping hands will be a lifesaver!

Do not be fooled, trimming the beak of a tortoise is no easy task, and if you are unsure of whether you are able to do it properly, then it is best left to a professional.

If you are able to perform this task, then you will need to prevent the tortoise from squirming. This is best done by wrapping it in a towel and binding it so it cannot move or run away.

It is better to wrap up the turtle or tortoise so that just the head is unwrapped and easy to reach. This will also prevent the turtle from trying to hide and shield its face away from you!

The next step is to use clippers to clip away the overgrown parts of the beak. It is much easier to angle the clippers at 45 degrees and trim the tip away slowly. Try to keep as much to the natural shape of the beak as possible for the reptile to eat with ease afterward.

Once you have clipped the overgrown part, you will want to sand the beak down to its regular size. You will want to use a soft emery board or filing tool so that it is not too abrasive for the turtle.

Summary

Turtles and tortoises use their beaks to grab, chew and eat their food. Without a properly maintained beak, it can become overgrown, and make it difficult for turtles and tortoises to eat at all.

Luckily, their beaks can be trimmed and sanded safely without causing any pain to the animal. This should be done regularly, ensuring that the beak is of normal size, and should be done by a veterinarian in most cases.

Dorothy Razo
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