While not all of the 500 species are aggressive predators, it’s hard to think about a shark without imagining a mouth filled with sharp white teeth.
With such a massive range of species, we can’t give one answer to the question, “how many teeth do sharks have?”
From small sharks like the tiny dwarf lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi) measuring just 17 centimeters (6.7 in) to the giant whale shark (Rhincodon typus) that can reach as much as 18 meters (59 ft), sharks have widely differing numbers of teeth.
As well as overall size, factors, including the shark’s feeding habits, can affect the number of teeth it has.
Because sharks can routinely replace lost teeth throughout their lives, the total number that a shark can have in its jaw, including reserves, can reach into the hundreds or even thousands.
How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have?
How many teeth do sharks have can only be answered with, “Which shark?”
There are more than 500 shark species, and the varied feeding behaviors, habitats, and sizes mean that they have widely different numbers of teeth.
Additionally, some sharks have only one row of teeth exposed in their upper and lower jaws, while other species have numerous visible rows.
You may see a shark like the great white (Carcharodon carcharias) with around 48 teeth on show and another like the frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) displaying 300 teeth.
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Sharks, including the great white sharks, can replace their teeth when they lose them. The sharks with only one row visible generally have five or more rows of teeth hidden, ready to go.
What Kinds of Shark Teeth Are There?
There are four major categories of shark teeth. Their distinctive shapes tell you about the shark’s life, particularly how it feeds.
Pointed Lower Teeth, Triangular Upper Teeth
This is what most people think of when they picture shark teeth. It’s the kind that the infamous great white shark has.
The pairing of triangular upper teeth with pointed lower teeth is seen on sharks who feed on large fish and mammals like sea lions, dolphins, and whales.
The teeth often have serrated edges to tear into the prey and break off small pieces for the shark to swallow.
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Other sharks with this type of teeth include hammerhead sharks (family Sphyrnidae) and the oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus).
Dense Flattened Teeth
Flattened teeth are found on sharks who live on the seabed and grind bivalves and crustaceans.
For example, the nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) uses its teeth to crush and crack open the shells of prey it captures, like oysters, clams, and crabs.
Needle-like Sharp Teeth
Paleontologists found this style on the first sharks from over 400 million years ago. You’ll also see them on sharks today, including the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) and blue shark (Prionace glauca).
A shark with these teeth will prey mainly on fish of a small to medium size. The shark uses its needle-like teeth to grab and hold onto its food before stunning it with violent shaking and then swallowing it whole.
As the giant, filter-feeding modern sharks have evolved, they have lost any obvious use for their teeth.
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However, these sharks, including the giant basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), still have thousands of tiny teeth that evolution hasn’t yet gotten rid of.
How Many Rows of Teeth Do Sharks Have?
The number of rows of teeth a shark has varied greatly depending on the species.
On average, a typical shark has 30 rows of teeth on each jaw, with five series. This could give a total of 300 teeth.
To understand how many teeth a shark has, we need to know how they’re counted.
Shark teeth are counted in rows and series.
The row is counted along the jaw line, and the total is the shark’s number of teeth on its front level.
How Many Sets of Teeth Do Sharks Have?
Sharks have teeth in reserve behind the front line in multiple series to replace any they lose.
These series count from front to back. So, the outermost line, the functional teeth of many sharks, is series one, the next behind series two, and so on.
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How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have in a Lifetime?
It’s estimated that a shark like a great white shark can get through approximately 35,000 teeth in its lifetime.
Because a shark’s skeleton, including its jaw, is made from cartilage rather than bone, its teeth are not well anchored in place.
During a shark’s activities, mainly feeding, it’s normal for a tooth or two to fall out from the front series.
Most sharks have evolved a layered series of teeth ready to replace any that are lost. It works like a tooth conveyor belt, with new teeth continually being developed to restock the supply.
In some sharks, the new tooth can be pushed into place in as little as about 24 hours. In others, it may take a week or as long as several months.
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Typically younger or tropical shark species replace their teeth faster than older or cold water species.
Usually, one tooth is replaced at a time. However, as we’ll see later, there are exceptions, like the Cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis), where the complete bottom series is replaced.
What Shark Has the Most Teeth?
The whale shark has the most teeth. They might only be tiny, but the giant filter-feeding whale shark has 3,000 teeth in its mouth.
In terms of “normal” shark teeth, the bull shark has an impressive 350 teeth in its jaw. Fifty are on display in the first series, and six series layers are hidden, ready to resupply.
The frilled shark has the most visible teeth, with over 300 trident-shaped teeth on display.
What Shark Has the Least Teeth?
All sharks have teeth, although, as we’ve already seen, not all are large and razor-sharp.
The smallest shark in the world, the dwarf lantern shark, has 25–32 tooth rows in the upper jaw and 30–34 tooth rows in the lower, giving a total of 55 and 66 visible teeth.
The more giant predatory sharks have the fewest teeth, although the teeth themselves are much larger!
For example, a typical great white shark has approximately 24 exposed teeth in their top and lower jaws to make a total of 48 visible teeth. But remember that there are usually five series behind in the jaw, ready to restock!
How Many Teeth Do Sharks Lose in a Year?
How many teeth a shark loses a year is a tricky question, and it’s important to remember that most shark species haven’t been studied that closely.
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It’s been reported that a species like the lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) could be expected to produce 20,000 teeth in its first 25 years of life.
Considering the 60 or so teeth this shark has visible in its mouth, we can say that the lemon shark loses about 800 teeth a year.
Different sharks have widely differing numbers of active teeth in their mouths, and how the shark behaves makes a big difference to how frequently it loses a tooth.
Teeth mainly get lost during feeding, and the big predators lose the most as a percentage from their mouths.
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When a large shark bites into its prey, many species will shake the food violently to stun it and bite a lump off.
If a large shark is attacking a dolphin or whale with hard bones, it’s easy to see how a tooth or two can get knocked loose. This can quickly equal hundreds a year throughout their entire lives.
Do Older Sharks Have Fewer Teeth?
Older sharks appear to replace their teeth just the same as younger ones. So a more aged shark should have the same number of teeth.
However, studies have shown that older sharks can take longer to replace their teeth and that as they age, many sharks’ teeth become broader and thinner, so they may break more easily.
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How Many Teeth Do Whale Sharks Have?
Despite being filter feeders, whale sharks have about 3,000 vestigial teeth in each jaw, a maximum of 6 mm (0.2 in) tall.
While these evolutionary remnants are still present, the whale sharks filter feed using 20 sieve-like filter pads that separate food from the seawater.
How Many Teeth Do Basking Sharks Have?
A typical filter-feeding basking shark could have over 1,000 teeth, albeit tiny ones.
They have three or four series in the upper jaw, each of about 100 teeth, and six or seven in the lower.
How Many Teeth Do Great White Sharks Have?
Great white shark’s jaws have about 48 teeth on display, with five replacement teeth series behind to give nearly 300 pointed teeth at any given time.
How Many Teeth Do Tiger Sharks Have?
The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) has 24 rows of shark teeth in each jaw to give a total of 48.
Tiger shark teeth are very sharp and have pronounced serrations and an unmistakable sideways-pointing tip.
These shark teeth have evolved to slice through hard objects, particularly turtle shells.
How Many Teeth Do Greenland Sharks Have?
The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) has 48 to 52 teeth in its upper jaw that are thin and pointed. They use these to anchor themselves to prey while the broad 48 to 52 teeth in the lower jaw cut off large chunks.
Other Interesting and Famous Sharks
How Many Teeth Do Megamouth Sharks Have?
The odd-looking megamouth shark is a deepwater filter-feeding shark and has non-functional teeth.
There are up to 83 teeth in their upper jaw and 97 in their lower in three series.
The largest teeth in the lower jaw are approximately 8.5 mm (0.33 in) tall.
How Many Teeth Do Bull Sharks Have?
Bull sharks are amongst the most aggressive sharks and have the teeth to back that reputation up.
A bull has 50 rows of shark teeth presented in its jaw in seven series. So, that’s a total of 350 teeth.
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However, it’s just the first series of 50 that are visible. The rest are backups!
How Many Teeth Do Mako Sharks Have?
The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) has long needle-like teeth that stick out even when the shark’s mouth is closed.
There are between 24 and 26 rows in the shark’s upper jaw and 22 and 24 in the lower in three or four series.
How Many Teeth Do Hammerhead Sharks Have?
You might imagine that with their curious head shape hammerhead shark have mouths filled with an unusually high number of teeth.
The largest hammerhead shark, the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), has strongly serrated triangular teeth with 34 rows in each of the upper and lower sharks jaws to give a total of about 68 visible teeth.
How Many Teeth Do Cookiecutter Sharks?
The cookiecutter shark has the largest teeth relative to its body size of any shark.
This unusual shark has 30 to 37 tooth rows in its upper jaw and 25 to 31 in its lower jaw.
The upper teeth are thin and pointed, while the lower are more triangular and form a single saw-like cutter plate.
When a lower tooth is damaged, the cookiecutter will shed the entire plate, often swallowing it with its food instead of losing just one tooth.
How Many Teeth Do Goblin Sharks Have?
The rare goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) has up to 115 teeth in its extendable jaws.
Depending on the shark’s age, there are between 35 and 53 upper tooth rows and 31 to 62 lower.
Towards the front of the shark’s jaws, the goblin has long and needle-like teeth for grasping prey, while those at the back are dense flattened teeth for crushing food.
How Many Teeth Do Frilled Sharks Have?
The frilled shark often called the living fossil, has about 300 needle-sharp teeth in its long, flexible jaws.
The unique backward curve shape of these teeth has evolved for catching squid. The body or tentacles of the prey readily snags on the teeth, leaving the shark with a simple meal to devour.
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How Many Teeth Did the Megalodon Have?
The extinct megalodon was the largest shark ever to have lived.
These giant shark teeth are commonly found as fossils and can measure as large as over 17.7 cm (7 in).
The megalodon had over 250 fearsome shark teeth in total in its jaws laid out in five series.
Sharks’ teeth are, for many people, the scariest part of the shark.
Answering how many teeth sharks have depends on the shark species.
Perhaps surprisingly, most teeth are actually found in the filter-feeding giant sharks.
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Meanwhile, the shark that everyone really cares about, the great white shark, displays about 48 deadly dentures at one time in its powerful jaws.
Unlike humans, most sharks have the impressive ability to continually replace their teeth.
After all, with the rate that so many teeth fall out, if a shark couldn’t, it would quickly become a very hungry hunter!
British-born Dan has been a scuba instructor and guide in Egypt's Red Sea since 2010.
Dan loves inspiring safe, fun, and environmentally responsible diving and particularly enjoys the opportunity to dive with sharks or investigate local shipwrecks.
When not spending time underwater, Dan can usually be found biking and hiking in Sharm's desert surroundings.