Fun Facts About Bears (and Their Teeth!)

Our state is big on bears. We have a large population of black bears (which are sometimes brown) and brown bears (including grizzlies, that are often grizzled). Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) estimates there are at least 500 grizzly bears in our state. Polar bears are not indigenous to Montana, except maybe Flossington, our very own polar bear.

Anatomy of a Tooth – Bears’ and Yours

What’s the first thing you think of when bears come to mind? Teeth! Bears’ teeth are similar to yours, in that they’re comprised of the root, covered by pulp, surrounded by dentin and all held together by enamel. Your tooth is anchored to your jaw bone via its root. This is true of your teeth, black bear teeth, grizzly teeth and polar bear teeth – even Flossington’s. If you and a bear were to open your mouths side-by-side in front of a mirror and bare your teeth, you’d see there are definitely differences between the bear’s teeth and yours – besides the fact yours aren’t nearly as intimidating.

Form Follows Function

Bears are omnivores, and so are most people, unless they choose to eschew meat or animal byproducts. An omnivore is a critter that eats both meats and plants. Since bears pull apart carrion with their teeth, as well as hunt and fish for their food, they have longer canines than you do. They use their incisors (front teeth) for nipping off plants and grasses, and they have flat molars and premolars for smashing tough materials, like bones and nuts. Bears also use their mouths to satisfy their curiosity about things. Click here to see video of a grizzly’s teeth up close and personal.

Besides fangs, what really sets bear mouths apart from yours is something called a diastema. The premolars on their lower jaw, behind their canines and in front of their molars, are reduced in size, leaving spaces on both sides of their mouths, so they can pull branches through from one side to the other, stripping off leaves and berries – efficient! Bears have to pack away a lot of calories to hold them over while they sleep most of the winter away.

Tooth Count

The number of teeth you and the bears have are another difference. Children typically have 20 baby teeth. When adult teeth are all present there are 32. You can subtract 4 from that if their wisdom teeth are removed, leaving 28. Bears, on the other hand, have 42 teeth. The better to eat… all manner food. Bears are not fussy eaters.

Your Advantage Over Bears

Bears are not immune to tooth problems. They have been known to develop tooth decay, tooth fractures and gum disease. Here’s your advantage – unlike wild bears, you have access to an excellent pediatric dentist in Bozeman. You don’t have to look any further than our own polar bear, Flossington’s, pediatric dental clinic for prevention and treatment of your teeth.