Do Killer Whales Have Teeth: Detailed Facts Around It


Do Killer Whales Have Teeth: Detailed Facts Around It

Baleen and toothed whales are the two main types of whales. The main distinction between the two groups is that baleen whales have baleens, whereas toothed whales have teeth.

Killer whales, also known as orcas, are toothed whales because they have teeth. Their teeth are interlocking and angular. Killer whales are known for grabbing their prey with their teeth. Furthermore, orcas’ teeth are irreplaceable and cannot be replaced once lost.

However, orcas do not all have the same number of teeth. Instead, the number varies from person to person. They also do not chew prey with their teeth; instead, they use them for grabbing and tearing them into bigger chunks.

Interesting right? So, in this article, we will shed light on killer whales’ teeth and other details associated with them. In the following sections, we have tried to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding orcas’ teeth. 

So, without further delay, let us get started on our quest to learn more about the apex predator.

Do Killer Whales Have Teeth
Image Credit: Killer Whales Have Teeth from Pixino

How sharp are killer whales’ teeth?

Killer whales are known for using their teeth to ambush their prey and tear through their flesh. Hence, it is not wrong to consider their teeth highly sharp.

We can safely state that orcas’ teeth are sharp enough to pierce through their prey’s flesh at once. In fact, their teeth are sharp and strong enough to produce a bite force of 19,000 psi. However, the accuracy of this bite force is still to be confirmed. 

That being said, killer whales lack molar teeth, due to which they cannot chew their food. But we must not forget that orcas are apex predators, and it is due to their sharp teeth, that they can even hunt down great white sharks. 

How big are killer whale teeth?

Image Credit: Killer whale(Vancouver) by Jerzystrzelecki (CC BY 3.0) from Wikimedia

Orcas’ teeth are sharp, and they use them as their defensive system against predators and to catch prey. 

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Killer whales’ teeth are about 3 inches long on average. As a result, their teeth are short but sharp, tearing through the flesh of their prey on the first attempt.

Killer whales’ teeth are found underneath their melon, inside the rostrum.

How many teeth do killer whales have?

The dolphin family includes killer whales. Despite their name, they are the largest species of dolphins and are not to be trifled with.

Killer whales, also known as the “wolves of the ocean,” have 40-56 interconnected teeth arranged in four rows. Each row usually has 10 to 12 sharp and conical teeth. The teeth of killer whales are all the same shape and size.

Both resident and transient killer whales have teeth, but transient killer whales are the most aggressive.

Are killer whales the only whales with teeth?

Image Credit: Two orcas from Pxhere

Odontoceti is a sub-discipline of whales that includes killer whales. The presence of teeth is one of these whales’ most distinguishing features.

Whales with teeth aren’t limited to killer whales. Instead, Odontoceti is a group of whales that includes more than 70 different species. The following are some examples of whales with teeth:

  • Narwhal
  • Beluga whale
  • Pygmy whale, etc.

However, toothed whales are among the most widely distributed mammals. And this category contains a greater number of whale species than the Mysticetes.

What type of teeth do killer whales have?

Most toothed whales are known to have sharp conical teeth. They use their teeth for hunting down larger prey. Are killer whales’ teeth the same?

Killer whales or orcas possess sharp cone-shaped teeth that are sufficient to produce intense and mortal wounds in the prey. Also, all their teeth are of the same size and shape without any variation. 

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What is the usage of killer whales’ teeth?

Killer whales are not whales but are categorized as special whales. They are known for their honed teeth. Let’s analyze for what purpose they use their teeth.

Orcas use their teeth to attack their prey and tear them apart into bigger pieces ideal to be swallowed at once. This dolphin species has up to 52 teeth in total, in both their upper and lower jaws, that are notoriously sharp. However, these specialized whales do not use their teeth to chew food due to the absence of molar teeth. 

Are orcas’ teeth replaceable?

Image Credit: Sea World Shamu from Maxpixel

We are well aware that shark teeth are sharp like orcas, and they are replaceable. So, are killer whales’ teeth too get replaced if lost?

Orcas do not get their teeth replaced if they lose them. They are born with only one set of teeth. However, their teeth are robust enough to last for a lifetime. 

However, orcas’ teeth may deteriorate in the long run due to prey hunting. It is not uncommon, although it is a gradual process. On the other hand, killer whales in captivity have a higher rate of tooth degeneration or decay because they frequently bite the steel bars or gnaw on the concrete walls of the cage.

Do killer whales chew their food?

Terrestrial land animals mostly chew their food before swallowing them. It is a part of the whole eating process in them. But can the same be stated for orcas or killer whales?

Killer whales do not chew their food. They can’t perform this action because they lack molar teeth. As a result, their wickedly sharp teeth are used for grabbing and tearing the prey into chunks perfect to be swallowed. 

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Are orca and shark teeth the same?

Both sharks and orcas are counted as the apex predators of the ocean. They are known for their keen hunting skills and scandalously sharp teeth. But are orca and shark teeth the same?

Orcas and sharks have sharp, cone-shaped teeth, but they are not the same. The main distinction between their teeth is that, unlike sharks, orcas cannot regrow theirs. As a result, sharks lose teeth over time and can replace them, but orcas cannot. For orcas, once a tooth is lost, it is lost forever.

Killer whales have 48-50 teeth at a time. On the other hand, Sharks can have up to 300 teeth at any given time, depending on their stage of development. It’s also worth noting that sharks, such as great whites, can grow up to 20000 teeth throughout their life.

Nonetheless, both sea creatures use their teeth as their defensive system against their predators. And it is their teeth that make them feared by other species of whales as well as sharks. 


So, to wrap up, we can state that it is not wrong that people often refer to orcas as the wolves of the ocean. The reason is simple- their infamous sharp teeth are highly efficient in hunting down even the great white sharks. Orcas are categorized as special toothed whales, and it is pretty fascinating to watch them smiling with all their small but perfectly conical teeth that are ever ready to give a tough fight to the predators.

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