What Are a Lion’s Teeth Called?

Nathan Rupert/CC-BY-2.0

Like other mammals, an African lion’s teeth are referred to, generally, as teeth. Lions do have individual types of teeth, including incisors, canines, premolars and molars, and a dental formula that applies to healthy, normally developed adult lions.

Though their jaws are extremely strong and teeth long and sharp, lion’s teeth don’t have a special name. As mammals, their teeth have a fixed arrangement and reach their final, adult form when the lion is about 1 year old. Lions do have baby (or deciduous) teeth that get pushed out by the developing adult teeth.

Adult lions typically have 30 teeth, with a dental formula of I (incisors)=3/3 C (canines)=1/1 P (premolars) =3/2 M (molars) =1/1. This dental formula counts only one half of of the teeth, starting at the midpoint and moving back to the back teeth; the formula is repeated on the other side. The number in front of the slash represents top teeth, meaning that lions have more premolars on their top jaw than on the bottom (three on top vs. two on bottom). This formula applies to other cats, including big cats like mountain lions and even domesticated house cats, whose mouths are markedly smaller than that of a full-grown adult lion.