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They may be the usual cuddly plush toy models, but adult bears may not be as cuddly and cuddly as their motionless counterparts. Bears come in eight different species around the world, and they are among the largest mammals no matter what continent they are found on.

Each bear comes in different colors and sizes. The polar bear alone holds the title of largest bear, growing up to 10 feet tall, with the largest recorded polar bear weighing 2,209 pounds. Polar bears are the largest terrestrial carnivores on Earth, and this is reflected in their massive diet.

Bears can look dangerous; especially when they have their teeth pulled! Bears also have a very strong bite relative to their enormous size and weight, making them dangerous predators. Let's take a closer look at bear teeth and how they help feed these large animals!

What kind of teeth do bears have?

Polar Bear vs Grizzly Bear
Bears are heterodonts. Their teeth help them cut and chew meat.

© Tony Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Like most mammals, bears are heterodont, meaning they have a set of teeth that are a combination of different types of teeth, each with a unique function. Bears have incisors, canines, premolars, and molars that help them chop and chew meat, while also allowing them to crush and grind plants and fruit.

Bears are mostly omnivores, eating both plants and other animals. All bears have different diets, depending on their habitat.

Polar bears, for example, love to prey on seals in Antarctica, and because of their height and size, they can also prey on larger land mammals such as caribou and musk oxen. Some bears also like to fish, so let them hunt fish such as salmon in freshwater.

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Black bears, brown bears, and Kodiak bears all rely on fish as their main diet, which teaches them how to swim and hunt in water.

How many teeth does a bear have?

The animal with the strongest bite - the grizzly bear
Most species of bears have a total of 42 teeth.

©Scott E Read/Shutterstock.com

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

Bears are equipped with exceptionally sharp incisors designed for tearing the flesh of their prey. They have four long, pointed canines, and molars with flat crowns that crush most plants to aid digestion.

Different species of bears have different numbers of teeth, but polar, black and brown bears all have the same dentition, 42 teeth.

(Unlike other bears, sloth bears have only 40 teeth as adults.)

For example, the tooth formula of a black bear is: incisors 3/3, canines 1/1, premolars 4/4, molars 2/3. A black bear's dentition is adapted to its specific diet, which mainly involves various types of plants, such as nuts, berries, insects, and sometimes meat. However, 75 percent of their diet was plant-based. As such, their teeth are sharp enough to cut through meat, but they are more commonly used to snip grass and other newly sprouting vegetation from the forest floor.

At first, black bear cubs have about the same number of teeth as dogs. As a bear ages, its premolars begin to degenerate or even fall out completely.

How do bear teeth work?

Polar Bear vs Grizzly - Polar Bear
Bears use their teeth to break through plants and break down bones and nuts.


Each tooth in a bear works in a completely different way than the others. In general, they function just like the teeth of any other omnivore: they can cut, contain, crush and grind all types of bear food.

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Bears often use their front teeth to break through vegetation and grass, and their front teeth and flat molars to break down bones and nuts. Here's how each bear tooth works:

Canines – Winter kills, fawns and other young animals, ground squirrels, insects and carrion are some of the main sources of bear meat. Their canines help them cut and cut the flesh of their victims.

Bears also use their canines to tear through logs in search of larvae and ants. To find the larvae, they tear open the hive with their teeth and eat it along with the honey.

Incisors – It is not uncommon for bears to use incisors to cut meat, but are more commonly used to rake woodland. For example, black bears use their incisors to nibble on succulent grasses, tasty dandelions, and tender shoots.

Molars – Bears have three molars on the bottom of each side of the jaw and two on the top. The molars of bears are more similar to those of humans, which have extremely sharp teeth, than those of other carnivorous mammals. Bears' diet consists of acorns, nuts, and other plants, and their wide, flat teeth allow them to crush all the plant material they consume in the same way humans crush raw carrots.

Premolars – Bears have four premolars between each canine and molar instead of the two that most adults have. As a result, their lower jaws often lack second and third premolars, leaving a gap called an interdental space. This gap is important to bears and many herbivores, as they find it convenient to grab stems or branches and slide them between the gaps while filtering leaves.

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How strong are bear teeth?

In terms of bite force, the bear is somewhere between a lion and a tiger with a bite force of 975 psi. This bite force is theoretically strong enough to crush a bowling ball or the skull of a whale.

How big are bear teeth?

When you think of bears, you might immediately assume they have huge, sharp, and unmistakably carnivore-like teeth. But on the contrary, the bear's teeth, although very sharp, are actually very short. A cub's teeth can grow up to 15 millimeters, while adult bears' teeth are only a few inches long. However, their powerful bite makes up for their less-than-frightening tooth length.


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grizzly bear
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about the author

Victor Victor

For six years, I have been a professional writer and editor of books, blogs and websites, with a particular focus on animals, technology and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with my friends.

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