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Tigers are one of the rarest and most magnificent creatures in the world. Humans have long been fascinated by their deadly and alluring beauty. Today, there are fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild, many of them critically endangered. But tigers don't just have pretty stripes; they also have huge teeth designed for hunting and eating their prey.

Here, we take a closer look at what makes a tiger's teeth so special, and how they use them. Then, we'll explore tigers' amazing bite force, and whether they pose a threat to humans.

Tiger teeth

Tiger cubs are born without teeth. Baby teeth begin to erupt within the first week of life, and by the time the cub is a few months old, it will have a full set of razor-like baby teeth. Cubs feed exclusively on their mother's milk until they are a few months old, although they remain with their mother until they are about two years old.

At six months of age, the pups begin to develop permanent dentition. When new adult teeth grow, they push out the baby teeth. This ensures that tigers are never toothless.

tiger adult teeth

Tiger Tooth Bengal Tiger Skull
Tigers have 30 teeth; 12 incisors, 4 canines, 12 premolars, and 2 molars.


There are two subspecies of living tigers; the continental tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and the Sunda tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica). The continental tiger includes the Bengal, Malayan, Siberian (Amur) and Indochinese subspecies. No matter what kind of tiger it is, the teeth are the same.

Tigers have 30 adult teeth. Most carnivores are more than that, but a tiger's jaw is specially developed to be short and strong. They don't have room for too many teeth, in fact – tigers can get along just fine with a few of their teeth.

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front teeth

There are 12 front teeth in the tiger's mouth; six are on the top and six are on the bottom. These are the small, gnawing teeth located at the front of the mouth. The angular incisors (those closest to the canines) are larger than the central or lateral incisors. Tigers primarily use their front teeth to pull flesh from bones, groom, and occasionally pick berries to eat.

canine teeth

Tigers have four canines; two on the top, two on the bottom, and two on each side of the mouth. The upper canines are larger than the lower canines, although they are both large for a tiger's size. In fact, tigers have the largest canines of any cat; their upper canines can grow up to 3.5 inches long.

Canine teeth are mainly used to catch prey. They have to be strong because tigers often hunt animals that are bigger than them.


Tigers have 12 premolars; six above, six below, and six on each side. Starting with the lower teeth; the first premolar is smaller than the other two and has three peaks (crowns). The crown is the highest. The second premolars, much like the first premolars, have three cuspid crowns, the highest of which is the middle crown. However, the third premolar has only two crowns, each of about the same size.

In the upper jaw, the first premolars are small and have only one crown. It resembles an incisor more than a premolar. The second and third premolars are similar to the bottom premolars, and the third premolar is one of the largest cheek teeth.

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Tigers have only two molars, located in the upper jaw, behind the third premolar. Their molars are so small they are almost invisible. Along with the premolars, the tiger's cheek teeth are called canines, and they serve a very specific purpose.

What do tigers use their teeth for?

royal bengal tiger
Tiger hunting prey and eating meat with teeth

© Mary Angela Hayes/Shutterstock.com

Tigers are obligate carnivores, which means they eat nothing but meat. In rare cases, they may eat berries or some loose bark, but fruits and vegetables are not an essential part of their diet.

This is where those giant teeth come into play. Some of them are used for predation, and some are used for eating meat.


Tigers are ambush predators; they prey primarily on medium to large ungulates such as wild boar and sambar. They grab their prey with their teeth and claws, and their fearsome canines grab the animal by the throat or nape of the neck. They then strangle the animal, crush the trachea or puncture the jugular vein with their extremely sensitive jaws.


Once a tiger has spotted or killed its prey, it's time to gobble it up. Tigers can eat over 50 pounds of meat at a time, all with the help of their cheek teeth – carnivores.

Tiger meat is designed to work like a pair of scissors, with the upper teeth engaging the lower teeth. They use these teeth to chop meat into smaller, bite-sized pieces, which they then swallow whole. Tigers don't have grinding teeth; they don't need them – all they do is cut meat.

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Tiger Bite

Tigers have short and short jaws that allow them to bite hard. Their jaw muscles attach to a bony ridge at the back of the skull called the sagittal crest. This attachment gives them enormous strength—enough to deliver over 1,000 PSI of bite force with every bite.

Are tigers dangerous to humans?

Tiger Tooth - Tiger with Open Mouth
As humans have increasingly encroached on tiger hunting territories, the death toll has risen.

© iStock.com/BreakingTheWalls

Tigers don't look for people to attack, but they are dangerous to humans. This is especially true in areas where human habitation and activities encroach on tiger habitat, such as India and Bangladesh. Unfortunately, tigers are known to attack humans and many people die as a result.

When traveling to Tiger Country, it is best to remember that tigers are wild animals. Never approach wild tigers, and if you find yourself in tiger territory, be sure to take all appropriate precautions.


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Tiger Tooth - Tiger with Open Mouth

© iStock.com/BreakingTheWalls

about the author

Brandi Allred

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She has degrees in English and Anthropology and writes horror, science fiction and fantasy stories in her spare time.

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