Do Dolphins Have Teeth? (Here’s How Many!)

Everybody knows what dolphins look like, but there are a lot of features that the general public isn’t sure about. One thing that I love to think about is how similar are dolphins when compared to the features that we have?

That’s why I’ve put together this article with everything you could ever wonder about dolphins and their teeth.

Dolphins teeth

Do Dolphins Have Teeth?

Dolphins begin to develop teeth at the age of three months and have a full set of teeth by five months. The number of teeth can vary, but most dolphins have between 80-100 teeth in total. Most dolphins only grow one set of teeth for their entire lifespan.

Experts can actually examine a dolphin’s tooth and tell you its approximate age. The growth rings around their teeth indicate their years of age.

Each year, a dolphin will develop one growth ring around each tooth. Unfortunately, since the dolphin’s teeth are permanent, it’s only possible to determine their age after the animal is decreased and removing the tooth for an in-depth examination.

How Many Teeth Do Dolphins Have?

Although it changes for each species of dolphin, most dolphins have between 80-140 teeth in their jaws. Dolphins are born with teeth embedded in the gums, but they don’t start erupting until two to three months after birth. It takes a few months for all of the teeth to fully grow in.

Here’s a chart for some common dolphins and the number of teeth that they have:

Dolphin Number of Teeth
Bottlenose Dolphin 80-100 teeth
Short-beaked Dolphin 200-240 teeth
Long-beaked Dolphin 100-120 teeth
Chilean Dolphin 114-134 teeth
Costero Dolphin 104-144 teeth
Dusky Dolphin 96-144 teeth
Pacific Humpback Dolphin 120-136 teeth

 

Do Dolphins Have Sharp Teeth?

The teeth of dolphins are sharp and shaped like a cone with a sharp point on top. Their jaw is structured to have an under-bite with a projecting lower jaw bone which is where they house their sharpest teeth. With their teeth, dolphins can grab onto their food and even defend themselves from danger.

However, unlike humans who have incisors, molars, and other types of teeth, all dolphin teeth are the same. They do not have any specialized teeth for biting, cutting, or grinding. They are all in the same shape and function in the same manner.

Do Dolphins Chew Their Food?

Unlike other species that may need to break down their foods before swallowing, dolphins do not need to chew their food. Their teeth are used for defensive weapons and to grip other objects firmly. The dolphin will swallow its food whole with the head first in order to avoid any resistance by the scales.

However, dolphin’s teeth do play a role other than just eating though. They are arranged in a configuration that works similarly to an antenna. They can receive incoming echolocation clicks which makes it easier for them to pinpoint the exact location of an object when they’re hunting.

Other Uses of Teeth

Just like humans have teeth for a variety of purposes, dolphin’s teeth also have a purpose.

Dolphins are known for being gentle animals but they do use their teeth in a defensive manner. When traveling in groups and living together, they use their teeth to discipline each other.

Each pod of dolphins has a certain hierarchy with some dolphins being higher up than others. An animal will demonstrate its dominance by raking other animals as a method of control. This involves scratching each other’s skin with their sharp teeth with the end result looking like a garden rake.

The good news is that raking is superficial and won’t leave any risk to the animal. This will leave marks on the dolphin’s skin but will eventually fade with time.

They’re often used on members who are misbehaving or trying to subordinate other dolphins in the group. This behavior is also much more common with male dolphins as they tend to be more aggressive.

They may perform this behavior especially when trying to mate with females in the group so it’s more common to see during mating season.