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Bear Teeth: Everything to Know (Size, Shape, Use & Sharpness)

Bears have four different kinds of teeth: incisors, canines, molars, and premolars. They’re used to eating, chewing, and grinding meat or plants. Their teeth are about a few inches long and very sharp.

Did you know that bears are heterodonts? This means that they have a set of teeth that are of different types.

But what do they use their teeth for? How big are they? And how sharp?

Those are some of the questions we’ll discuss in this article. We’ll cover what types of teeth bears have, what the different teeth are used for, and how big and sharp they are.

What Kind of Teeth Do Bears Have?

Bears are heterodonts, meaning they have a set of teeth that are of different types: incisors, canines, molars, and premolars. 

Bears use their teeth for a variety of tasks, but mostly chewing, grinding, and grinding food to eat. They also use them to kill and grab things. 

They have a total of 42 teeth: 

  • 12 incisors
  • 4 canines
  • 16 premolars
  • 10 molars

The incisors are the front teeth that are used for cutting food and tearing into the meat from prey. 

The canines are the sharp, pointed teeth in the upper and lower jaws that bear down on prey when bears kill their food. 

The premolars are flat-topped teeth located behind the canine teeth and before the molars. They help with grinding up food. 

And finally, the molars are large, flat-surfaced back teeth that crush and grind food.

bear face closeup

How Many Teeth Do Bears Have?

Most bears have a total of 42 teeth: 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars. 

Bears have very versatile teeth. They use their teeth to crush and break down nuts, seeds, and other plant foods[1]. They also use them to rip apart the flesh of animals they have killed.

They will often bite into food at a 45-degree angle rather than the 90 degrees that most carnivores do. 

This is because bear saliva contains enzymes that help them digest plants better than other animals could manage on their own.

How Do Bear Teeth Work?

Bears’ teeth all serve different purposes. Much like other omnivores, they use their teeth to eat, grind, cut, grab, and crush food or other items.

As mentioned, bears have different kinds of teeth, each with its own purpose. Depending on the type, and their position, they’re used for different purposes.[2]

bear skull and teeth

Canines

Canines are a type of teeth that are found in many different animals. They are characterized by their sharp edges, which are used for biting and cutting. In humans, they are used for tearing food apart. 

They come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the animal they are found in. 

Bears, for example, have sharp canines that are used for killing prey and grabbing things. These are also used to tear other things apart, such as logs to find insects.

Incisors

Incisors are sharp and chisel-like teeth used to cut meat and chew plants. Incisors are located in the front of the bear’s mouth, and they have a total of twelve of them.

Grizzly bears have slightly different incisors than black bears. Grizzly bear incisors are curved inward and are used for breaking into prey items. 

Black bear incisors are straighter and less curved, and they are better suited for slicing vegetation. 

Molars

Bears have molars on each side, three on top and two at the bottom. These are broad, flat teeth.

Molars are the largest and most important teeth in a bear’s mouth. They are used to grind up food and are shaped differently depending on what type of bear it is. 

Premolars

Bears have four premolars between each of their canines and molars. There are 16 premolars in total. They are used for slicing and grinding food. Bears typically have a gap between their premolars. This is called diastema and is seen in many herbivores. 

This gap is useful for grabbing stems or twigs.

panda bear eating bamboo

How Big Are Bear Teeth?

Bears have relatively short teeth, ranging from one inch to a few inches. Their teeth are however incredibly sharp and strong, and they also have an incredibly strong bite that makes up for the lack of tooth size.

When it comes to bear teeth, they are all different sizes. The largest bear teeth belong to the polar bear. Polar bear teeth can grow up to 2 inches in length. 

Black bear teeth are much smaller in comparison and usually, only grow about 1 inch in length[3].

Their teeth are relatively small, though they are very sharp and strong. Their lack of teeth size is made up for by their strong bite.

grizzly bear face showing teeth

How Strong Are Bear Teeth?

Bears have strong teeth, but they’re not very long. To make up for this, they have an incredibly strong bite, reaching up to 1,200 PSI for Polar Bears.

It is not the bear’s teeth themselves that are strong, but their jaw muscles. It takes a lot of force to tear through tough animal hides or slice through a bone. 

Polar bears have the strongest bite of about 1,200 PSI, whereas grizzly bears can bite with about 1,100 PSI of force.

Related: Bear Bite Force

What Do Bears Use Their Teeth For?

Bears, like all other animals, use their teeth for a variety of things, including eating, killing, grabbing things, and grinding up plants. They’re very versatile and have evolved different teeth for different purposes, due to their omnivorous nature.

Eating

Bears are omnivores, which means that they eat both meat and plants. They use their incisors to bite into food, their canines to tear the food apart, their premolars to cut it into smaller pieces, and their molars to grind the food up.

Related: What Do Bears Eat? 

bear eating fish in the river

Killing

Bears have large canines and incisors, typically used for killing prey. They aren’t just there to help the bear chew its food; those razor-sharp incisors and slicing canines can kill prey in an instant. 

And if that’s not enough, bears use their premolars and molars to crush bones – a feat no other animal can boast of.

Grabbing

Bear teeth are great for grabbing things, especially if they want to bring them back into their bear cave. The gap in their lower mouth, the diastema, is used to grab twigs and stems.

They also use their strong paws with sharp claws.

FAQs

How Do You Identify Bear Teeth?

Bears are heterodonts, meaning they have a set of teeth that are of different types: incisors, canines, molars, and premolars. Generally, the bear’s incisors are small; the bear’s canine is longer than the bear’s other teeth with a sharp end to it; the bear’s premolars are smaller than the bear’s molars; the bear’s molars have different shapes.

Does a Bear Have Fangs?

Yes, bears do have fangs. This is another term for the canines. However, bear fangs aren’t very long, compared to the large size of the bear itself. Their fangs are typically 2-3 inches.

Can You Sell Bear Teeth?

You can sell bear teeth in some countries and states. There are different regulations on the matter depending on the state. 

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.