How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have? (13 examples with pictures)

Sharks have a set of very efficient mechanisms to assist with hunting, such as incredible adaptation to the environments in which they hunt. Some are more intelligent than others, but the amount of teeth they have, and the teeth mechanism in sharks is amazing.

For the most common types of sharks, they have 50 to 300 teeth on average, at any time. They lose teeth constantly and keep replacing them by quickly growing the new ones. This is why sharks have on average 20 000 to 35 000 teeth in their lifetime, sometimes up to 50 000.

The number of teeth they have depends on the type of shark.

They lose at least 1 tooth per week, and they are also born with them. Since they live 20 to 30 years on average, that means they will replace teeth many times during their lives.

Why Do Sharks Have So Many Teeth?

Sharks can lose from a few up to 40 teeth per week, which means that one tooth usually lasts for a week, up to a few months. That’s because shark teeth don’t have roots like our teeth, and are not as strong. They lose them easily, so they need to keep replacing them, also easily.

This is where shark teeth rows come in.

shark under water

Many types of sharks have teeth layered in series and rows. These rows are counted along the line of the jaw, while series are counted from the front of the jaw inward. A single row has one or more functional teeth up front, and several replacement teeth behind this.

shark teeth with marked rows and series
Shark Teeth Row (by Kate W – Original file here, CC BY 3.0)

An average number for most sharks is 5 series and 15 rows of teeth, but some can have many more. Bull shark, for example, has 50 rows of teeth in 7 series. That’s 350 teeth.

When the shark loses a tooth in the first row, the skin moves, and the teeth in the back immediately go in to replace the old one, like on a continuous conveyor belt. This can happen in just 24 hours. This is why they can create up to 50 000 teeth throughout their lifetime.

The rate of tooth replacement varies from once every week to several months. Most sharks replace one tooth at a time, as opposed to simultaneous replacement of an entire row, such as in Cookiecutter Shark.

Some shark teeth are very valuable, almost as much as pearls.

Some sharks don’t have as many teeth, and some don’t lose as much. Some are plant eaters and have smaller teeth and different ways of feeding. But for the average carnivore shark, layered teeth are the way to go.

Types of Shark Teeth

There are four basic types of shark teeth:

  • needle-like
  • pointed lower with triangular upper,
  • dense flattened
  • non-functional

The type of tooth that a shark has depends on its diet and feeding habits.

Sharks with needle-like teeth mostly feed on small to medium-sized fish. Fish are slippery and narrow, so these teeth are perfect because they can easily grip the fish, squid, or stingray. The most common types of sharks with needle-like teeth are the blue shark and bull shark.

The combination of pointed lower with triangular upper is especially useful for cutting prey that consists of large mammals and fish. They cut them into smaller portions then swallow the pieces. Great white sharks have such teeth, and their bite force is incredible.

Dense flattened teeth crush the shell-like prey, such as crabs and lobsters. Typical examples are angel sharks and nurse sharks. This kind of prey can’t just be punched through with a needle, so these teeth are perfect for crushing.

The ones that have non-functional teeth are the plankton-eaters, such as basking sharks. They are small teeth, not used, and such sharks filter feed by opening their mouth for small organisms to get sucked, such as plankton.

Megalodon Tooth in a person's hand

Megalodon teeth are possibly the largest teeth ever recorded in a shark. They are extinct species, but their teeth are the size of a human fist and are among the most sought after in the world. You can buy a replica from Amazon.


How Many Teeth Does the Great White Shark have?

Great White Shark with open mouth showing teeth
By Olga Ernst – Own work, the image on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

The world’s most feared shark, the great white shark, also known as the killer shark, has one of the strongest bites of all sharks. They have fewer active teeth than most other types of sharks, with about 50 teeth in use at any point in time in the first two rows, and about 250 replacement teeth waiting in the back.

Highlights:

  • Their teeth are highly prized around the world
  • Can have over 20000 teeth in its lifetime
  • 2 inch long triangular teeth, with jags on the edges. It bites the pray and sinks the teeth in the lower jaw, then closes the upper jaw and trashes its head to tear chunks of flesh. Ouch!
  • A study in 2008 calculated the bite force of a great white shark to 18,000N (Newtons) or 4,095lbf (a pound of force). To put that into perspective, 18,000N is equal to a heavy car standing on top of you.
  • Their teeth are continuously replaced, and they never run out

How Many Teeth Does the Tiger Shark Have?

Tiger Shark swimming
By Albert Kok – Own work, the image on wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0

Called “tiger” because of the stripes found mainly on juveniles they have, tiger sharks have 24 rows of unique teeth, totaling above 300. They are much shorter than those of a great white shark, but better suited to slice through hard-surfaced prey.

Highlights:

  • Perfect predator with teeth likes sawblades.
  • Unique teeth, very sharp with powerful jaws that crack shells, clams, and sea turtles easily
  • Highly serrated teeth (jagged edge), with a sideways-pointing tip that easily cuts through flesh and bone
  • The tiger shark holds the prey with the bottom teeth, and uses the upper teeth to saw and take the bite out of it. It does this by swinging its head left and right like a saw.
  • Each tooth-like having several teeth in one place

How Many Teeth Does the Sand Shark Have? (Gray Nurse Shark)

Sand Shark (Gray Nurse Shark) with open mouth showing teeth
By Stevelaycock21 – Own work, file on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sand shark also called sand tiger shark, or gray nurse shark, is a carnivore of 6.5 to 10.5 feet, with 3-4 rows of teeth, totaling more than 150. It’s one of the most terrifying-looking sharks out there. However, they’re not as vicious as they appear, they’re submissive.

Highlights:

  • Teeth are needle-like, highly adapted for impaling fish and similar pray, such as stingrays
  • Their long, narrow and sharp teeth are sticking out in every direction, even when the mouth is shut,
  • They only attack humans in self-defense
  • Their teeth size is around one inch

How Many Teeth Does the Bull Shark have?

Bull Shark showing teeth with open mouth
Picture by Shelby Zeigler

The bull shark is one of the most dangerous in the world, which has 50 rows of teeth in 7 series, which comes to 350 teeth in total. This is a shark with quite a lot of teeth, that will easily attack humans and visit shallow waters.

Highlights:

  • They use a bump-and-bite technique to attack prey: after the first contact with the prey, they keep biting and tackling it, until they are unable to flee.
  • Triangular teeth, but the upper ones are wide, heavily jagged, while the lower ones are narrow and finely jagged.
  • Can attack and eat all kinds of prey, from bony fish (such as sunfish) to small sharks, sea turtles, and crabs.
  • They have a bite force of 5,914N (Newtons) or 1,330lbf (pounds of force) (1).

How Many Teeth Does the Shortfin Mako Shark Have?

Shortfin Mako Shark with open mouth showing teeth

With their knife-like pointy teeth, Shortfin Mako Shark (also called “blue pointer”) has one of the largest brain-to-body ratios. Very intelligent type of sharks, they have teeth arranged in 12 rows, which totals in several hundred teeth.

Shortfin Mako Shark Teeth up close example
By Joxerra Aihartza – Nire argazki-bilduma / own picture, FAL, file at wikimedia.org

Highlights:

  • Long teeth that protrude from their mouth even when closed
  • Their large, hook-like teeth have razor-sharp edges, arranged in 12 rows
  • It’s such a fast shark that it can swim 25 mph constantly, with bursts up to 46 mph
  • Smallfin mako can adjust the orientation of its denticles to regulate induced drag, which helps the animal to maneuver at high speed

How Many Teeth Does the Goblin Shark Have?

Goblin Shark model with open mouth and teeth showing
By Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria – fishesofaustralia.net,
file on wikimedia.org, CC BY 3.0 au

This nightmare-ish-looking shark looks like something straight out from a horror movie. The shark has an extendable jaw for an extra bite, with about 60 to 115 teeth in total.

Highlights:

  • Has nail-like and long front teeth for stabbing and catching prey, and small and flattened teeth at the back for crushing.
  • 5-53 teeth in the upper jaw, and 31-62 in the lower jaw.
  • Three rows of front teeth on each side of both jaws, separated by a gap from the back teeth
  • Their jaws fetch high prices from collectors

How Many Teeth Does the Hammerhead Shark Have?

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark swimming with open mouth showing teeth
By Kris Mikael Krister, CC BY 3.0

Hammerhead sharks are a group of sharks, named for the unusual structure on their heads that looks like a hammer. They live 20 to 30 can grow up to 20 feet in size and have several rows of teeth with 24 to 37 teeth in each row.

Highlights:

  • Have various types of teeth, depending on the specie
  • Smaller bonnethead sharks have thicker, flattened crushing teeth and pray on crabs and similar, while large hammerhead sharks have bladelike teeth and pray on larger fishes, squid, and similar.
  • Their teeth are serrated (jagged edges) and triangular in shape
  • They have several series of teeth, and the number varies from species to specie

How Many Teeth Does the Cookiecutter Shark Have?

Cookiecutter shark with open mouth showing teeth
Those are real teeth, not plastic

With the ability to cut a perfectly circular chunk of flesh with their lower saw-like teeth, the Cookiecutter Shark is quite unique. It has around 60 saw-like teeth for cutting out perfectly circular shapes in the pray.

Highlights:

  • It’s a very small shark of 16.5-22in (42-56cm)
  • It grabs the prey with the upper teeth, then cuts with the lower teeth by spinning its body to remove a “cookie-shaped” chunk of flesh. The prey leaves with a perfectly round cookie cutter-shaped hole in its body
  • Cookiecutter doesn’t lose teeth individually like other sharks. It sheds its teeth in a single row, swallowing the bottom teeth, most likely to maintain the high amount of calcium in the body

How Many Teeth Does the Nurse Shark Have?

Nurse Shark swimming
By Stevelaycock21 – Own work, file on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

Nurse sharks have the simplest type of tooth arrangement found in sharks. They have about 30 to 42 upper teeth and 28 to 34 lower teeth, in single rows.

Highlights:

  • There is no overlapping between the teeth
  • Forward movements of teeth leading to shedding do not depend on other teeth, compared to other sharks
  • Their teeth replacements occur faster in summer when water temperatures are higher.
  • Their teeth are tiny and serrated, and they will bite defensively if bothered by divers

How Many Teeth Does the Frilled Shark Have?

Frilled Shark with open mouth showing teeth
By © Citron, the image on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0

As you can see from the image, Frilled Shark is something special. Their teeth are strangely arranged and count around 300 in total.

Highlights:

  • Teeth are shaped strangely for catching soft-bodied squid.
  • They’re long, many and needle-like. When it catches something, nothing gets out.
  • Such recurved teeth are functionally similar to squid jigs, and can easily snag the body or tentacles of a squid.
  • They often swim with their mouths open, and because of how they look, light teeth against the dark mouth, it can fool the squid into attacking and entangling themselves.

How Many Teeth Does the Whale Shark Have?

Whale Shark with open mouth feeding on plankton

A record holder in many areas for size, whale sharks can be extremely large, but since they are filter feeders, they pose no threat to humans or other larger animals. Incredibly, whale sharks have over 300 rows of tiny teeth.

Whale Shark Teeth example
Whale Shark Teeth

Highlights:

  • They are filter feeder (eats small organisms)
  • They have very small teeth, tiny and pointed backward,
  • Whale sharks’ teeth play no role in feeding
  • Tiny teeth, but the largest shark. In fact, the whale shark is the largest shark in the world

How Many Teeth Does the Basking Shark Have?

Basking Shark with Open Mouth swimming and feeding

One of the most curious-looking sharks out there, the basking shark has very small teeth inside its enormous mouth, which it uses to catch small organisms. Eats mostly zooplankton and small fish, and often has 100 teeth per single row.

Highlights:

  • The Basking shark has hundreds of tiny teeth
  • tiny hooked teeth, the ones in the center of the jaws are low and triangular, while those on the sides are cone-shaped and slightly recurved
  • Teeth are very small, only 0.2-0.24 inches in length, or 5-6mm
  • In contrast to their small teeth, they are enormous in size, being the 2nd largest shark in the world

How Many Teeth Does the Megamouth Shark Have?

Megamouth Shark example with open mouth showing teeth
From WA Maritime Museum. Image on wikimedia.org

This shark is so rare, there have only been about 70 sightings of it, ever. They have very large mouths and very small teeth, totaling hundreds of teeth.

  • Similar to the other 2 filter feeders, the Basking and the Whale sharks, it feeds mostly on plankton
  • Megamouth sharks have up to 50 rows of teeth in the upper jaw, and up to 75 in the lower jaw
  • However, only 3 rows of teeth are usable.
  • Females usually have fewer teeth than males

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