Croc teeth

Tired of brushing your teeth? What if you could just grow new ones? That’s what crocodiles do.

Of course, humans grow new teeth too, but only once. Youngsters lose their baby teeth and grow adult ones as they age. Most children start out with about 20 teeth and replace them with 32 adult teeth.

Depending on the species of crocodile, they can have 60 to 110 teeth. During their lifetime, a crocodile may replace 8,000 teeth. Can you imagine losing and growing that many teeth?

To keep our teeth healthy, it’s important to eat a healthy diet, brush them every day, floss and see a dentist in case you have cavities. Crocodiles don’t have to worry about going to a dentist.

It’s good that crocodiles can grow new teeth, because their teeth have only a thin protective coating of enamel. Human teeth have a thicker coating of enamel — that shiny outer part of your teeth — than crocodiles.

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Crocodiles apparently don’t need tougher teeth, which is kind of surprising since crocodiles are known for having a really powerful bite that they use to help kill and chew their prey. A crocodile bite has been measured at 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. In comparison you and I can only create about 100 pounds of pressure when we bite.

Some dinosaurs, like the big meat-eater Tyrannosaurus rex, also had teeth with a thin enamel coating and could grow new teeth to replace bad or broken ones. Crocodiles are like living dinosaurs, having survived for about 230 million years.

One way to tell a crocodile from an alligator is by its front teeth. Crocodiles have teeth on each side of their bottom jaw that you can see when their mouth is closed. That’s not true for alligators. Crocodiles also have a nose that is more V shaped, while alligators’ snouts are shaped more like a U.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette

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