The notorious (and often unwarranted) reputation of sharks as lethal and scary predators is due, in most part, to their large mouths full of razor-sharp teeth.
But how many teeth do sharks have? Well, depending on the exact species, they can have between 50 and 300 teeth that they lose and regrow constantly.
For more information about the different types of sharks’ teeth, how they are arranged, and how many teeth they go through in life, keep on reading below!
How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have?
Sharks have been at the top of the marine food chain for around 450 million years, even before the first trees came to be, but their teeth took another 50 million years to develop.
Despite evolution creating about 500 shark species to this day, it has not changed the way sharks constantly lose and produce new teeth—the old, dull ones fall to the sea floor (and fossilize), as they don’t have any roots, so the new teeth push them out.
However, with such a variety, there is no definitive answer to the question: “How many teeth does a shark have?” For instance, the Great White has 50 ‘active’ teeth to cut its prey into smaller chunks, the frilled shark always uses 300 teeth to capture soft-bodied fish, but the whale shark has around 3000 small (and ineffective) teeth on each jaw.
Also, while the teeth of the apex predators are huge, serrated, and sharp enough to tear through any creature, those of the whale sharks are tiny and non-functional since they are filter-feeders that just open their mouths and take in all the food they need.
How Many Different Types of Sharks’ Teeth Are There?
With so many different types of sharks, we see a wide variety of teeth adaptations, and their unique shapes tell us a lot about the shark’s feeding habits and way of life:
- Needle-like sharp teeth—these primordial teeth found on 400-million-year-old sharks are still in use today by species such as the bull shark and the blue shark; long and thin, they are perfect for puncturing and holding onto slippery prey;
- Pointed lower and triangular upper teeth—deadly dentures filling the mouths of the seas’ most dangerous shark species who regularly feed on large mammals such as dolphins, sea lions, and whales, which they need to cut into bite-sized chunks;
- Dense flattened teeth—these are common in species living on the sea floor, such as nurse sharks and angel sharks, and are used for crushing and grinding bivalves and crustaceans such as lobsters, turtles, crabs, and other hard-shelled animals;
- Non-functional teeth—remnants of evolution found in giant filter-feeding sharks like the megamouth, the whale shark, and basking sharks; they serve no special purpose other than allowing these large sharks to grip their partner during mating.
The number of rows and series of teeth depends on the shark species and its feeding habits, and most sharks keep several series of teeth in reserve while only effectively using the front line, which can immediately be supplanted by the teeth directly behind it.
While varying greatly, the average shark species has about 60 rows of teeth (on both jaws) arranged in five series, which adds up to 150 teeth per jaw or 300 total.
How Many Teeth May a Shark Grow in Their Lifetime?
Most shark species will go through upwards of 35,000 teeth in their lifetimes since they constantly replace old and dull teeth (they fall to the sea floor).
New shark teeth may break off easily within a week since they grow in the gum tissue instead of being rooted in the jawbone like the teeth of most land mammals.
That way, sharks lose dozens of teeth per month, and as they do, the skin of the mouth simply moves the replacement choppers to the front—akin to a conveyor belt!
6 Fascinating Sharks’ Teeth Facts
Throughout their eons-long history, sharks have developed into the most fascinating creatures of the sea world, as revealed by the following nail-biting shark teeth facts:
- Shark teeth are coated in fluoride, making them extremely resistant to wear and tear;
- The largest shark tooth found so far was measured at 7 inches in length and belonged to a Megalodon shark—a prehistoric species that could grow up to 60 feet long;
- Shark teeth develop on the jaw cartilage from specialized skin tissue and are attached to the jaw with a soft tissue layer known as the basal epithelium;
- Sharks have two exceptionally strong and movable jaws that generate a bite force that is 15 times stronger than that of humans;
- Most sharks swallow their own teeth without noticing during the feeding process;
- Fossilized shark teeth are blackish since they undergo a process of permineralization—absorbing the minerals of the sediments in which they are buried.
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Ultimately, the number of teeth sharks have varies significantly depending on the species, but most of them typically house around 300. Also, while some sharks lose a tooth or two per day, others simultaneously replace an entire row of teeth (cookiecutter shark).
At the end of the day, despite shedding tens of thousands of teeth throughout their lifetimes, sharks have impeccable dental hygiene, thanks to the built-in fluoride in their choppers, which helps them avoid cavities—an evolutionary trait we missed out on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do baby sharks have teeth?
Yes, baby sharks have teeth. They are born with a full set of sharp teeth and use them to feed on prey, and they continue to fall out as they grow and are replaced by adult teeth.
How often do sharks lose their teeth?
In general, sharks lose teeth every week, but they grow back very quickly, and as a tooth falls out, those behind it move forward to take its place.
How many sets of teeth do sharks have?
Sharks typically have around 5 sets of teeth, with the front series of teeth functioning as the shark’s main chompers and the rest waiting to replace those that fall out.