The Wild World of Animal Teeth

Fun fact: Humans aren’t the only animal with teeth. Sure, Jaws is a movie… but shark teeth are a lot more than just frighteningly sharp. It turns out shark teeth, and other mouths in the animal kingdom, have fascinating properties that’ll make you appreciate the relative simplicity of our teeth.

1. Sharks never get cavities because their teeth are literally made of fluoride.

Shark teeth are naturally made of fluoride, or the toothpaste ingredient that helps prevent cavities in human teeth, making their teeth uniquely protected against cavities. Who knows why their iconic Jaws have been evolutionarily blessed, but the Shark Tales version of Dr. Rubinshtein (The Snapchat Dentist) must be *so* happy.

2. Sabertooth tigers had weak bites.

Speaking of iconic smiles, let’s talk about the animal with a namesake that comes from teeth. A computer model simulation discovered multiple species of sabertooth tigers used their powerful neck muscles to kill, while their jaws were actually weak. Let’s rename themnlight Sabers ;). Another fun fact: The scientific name for sabertooth tigers is Smilodon. Scientists are so tongue-and-cheeky.

3. Hippo teeth are big. And they’re tusks.

If you didn’t know, tusks are actually teeth. If your mind (and mouth) is blown — read on. Hippos have giant incisors and canine teeth that never stop growing, and can grow up to 3 feet long! Talk about overbite. These giant chompers are used for combat, not eating.

4. Elephant teeth/tusks are even BIGGER.

Elephant tusks are pretty enormous, and continuously grow up to 7 inches each year. They’re even bigger than you can see, too, because one-third of their size is hidden deep in their heads. Sadly, we can’t mention elephant teeth/tusks without bringing up poaching — which has drastically reduced elephant populations due to the ivory trade.

5. There are fish with “human” teeth.

The sheepshead fish has the same tooth “layout” as humans, which makes them look… terrifying. Not much else to add here other than yikes.

6. Sperm whales are the largest animals with teeth.

The largest animal with teeth is the sperm whale. Larger whales (because what else is bigger other than a whale) are baleen whales, which means they basically use hair (baleen) to filter their food out of sea water.

7. Sharks can use up to 30,000 teeth in their lifetime.

Sharks are constantly losing their teeth while feeding — to the tune of 30,000 over a lifetime. This sounds bad, but other than the benefit of sustained income from tooth fairy coins (likely left under the sea bed, not a pillow), losing teeth has no real impact on their oral health. Sharks have rows upon rows of teeth constantly growing, as newer teeth move towards the front of their mouths when old ones are lost.