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Dinosaur Teeth

Activity for Grades 5–8


Dinosaur Teeth

In the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History, robotic dinosaur skulls demonstrate how the various dental adaptations of plant-eating dinosaurs worked. They show how as teeth wore down, new teeth grew to replace them.

Paleontologists can tell a lot from the size of a dinosaur’s skull and from the teeth in it. The teeth provide the best clues as to what dinosaurs ate. Some dinosaurs, like Apatosaurus, had long, rake-like teeth. They used their teeth to strip leaves off branches. Tyrannosaurus rex had sharp, knife-like teeth. It used them to rip meat off its prey and swallow it whole. Triceratops had a whole battery of sharp teeth that it used to slice plants. Other dinosaurs, such as Hadrosaurs, had whole batteries of grinding teeth used to grind up plants.


This activity will show students the kinds of information that studying teeth can provide.


  • Four to five small mirrors
  • Pieces of carrot (one per student)
  • Choppers, Strippers, Grinders, and Rippers (page 2 of PDF below) duplicated for each student
dino teeth activity image 2


  1. Have students work in small groups. Distribute the mirrors to groups. Have students use the mirrors to examine their teeth. Ask them to identify and sketch the three different kinds of teeth they have (incisors, canine teeth, and molars). Ask them to hypothesize how each of the three teeth are used.
  2. Distribute carrots. Instruct students to use their teeth to: a. grate or rake off the carrot’s outer layer b. slice or bite off a piece of the carrot c. grind up a piece of the carrot
  3. Distribute the Choppers, Strippers, Grinders, and Rippers to students. Have students read the directions and complete the activity. (Answers: top left, stripper; top right, grinder; bottom left, chopper; bottom right, ripper.)


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