Explore the Functions of Teeth


SWBAT identify the uses of a variety of different types of teeth.


a small mirror
lettuce leaves
two small flat stones
staple remover
and cotton balls


1)  Teeth hold important clues about what an animal ate and even how it may have behaved.
2)  Have students examine the features and functions of teeth.
3)  Have students work in small groups. Distribute materials to each group.
4)  Display the staple remover. Tell students it represents the sharp teeth of a meat eater.
5)  Using the cotton balls, model how a meat eater might rip apart meat.
6)  Point out the rocks and explain that they represent the flat, grinding teeth of a plant eater.
7)  Using the lettuce, model how a plant eater might grind up vegetation.
8) Have students experiment with the materials to determine which set of teeth worked best for each food.
9)  Then, using the mirrors, have students examine their own teeth.
10)  Have them identify and sketch the three different kinds of teeth they have (incisors, canines, and molars).
11)  Ask them to hypothesize how each of the three kinds of teeth are used.
12)  Have groups discuss their findings. Point out that teeth provide the best clues to what dinosaurs ate.

                            Some dinosaurs, like Apatosaurus, had long, peg-like teeth. They used their teeth to strip
                            leaves off tree branches. Tyrannosaurus had sharp, serrated, knife-like teeth. It used them to rip
                            meat off its prey. Triceratops had a set of flat teeth with sharp ridges. It used the teeth to slice
                                up plants. Anatotitan had sets of grinding teeth, which were used to grind up plants.

Students will record their observations and list the uses of three different kinds of teeth.

From:  American Museum of Natural History