We have these hard anatomical structures in our mouths in two opposing rows so we can bite, dental enamel being one of the hardest natural substances known, and they are essential to our survival.
Parts and types of teeth.
We must have teeth to eat (even false ones) so we can bite, chew and swallow food, a feature common to all non-feathered vertebrates whether mammal, reptile, amphibian or fish.
Our teeth are set in jaws made to bite and exert force to tear, chop up and grind down what we eat. See the different types with their functions here:
We share common features with our primate friends.
Molars and premolars chew and grind, incisors and canines cut and tear. Cats, dogs and reptiles like crocodiles have especially prominent “eye teeth” or canines to grip prey. Sharks have row upon row that continually replace themselves and are razor sharp.
The loss or breakage of teeth in a wild animal may be fatal (Job 4:10), something to bear in mind as we read what God may do to his or our enemies.
Contrary-wise herbivores like sheep only have gutting and grinding teeth and no canines as in this sheep jawbone.
Some animal’s teeth grow throughout life, very necessary for a rodent who is continually gnawing.
Teeth are complex objects whose whiteness is due to the calcium that is their main constituent (Gen.49:12, Song of Sol.4:2).
They are always set in bone to give them stability and it is from deep within bone they erupt in the young animal or human. They each have a nerve and blood vessel as you well know if you attend the dentist! So it is easy to see God made these hard structures perfectly adapted to their use and capable of lasting a lifetime.
We make tools that have projections that look like teeth to harpoon meat or thresh cereal crops (I Sam.2:13, Is. 41:15).
The word teeth appears fifty times in Holy Scripture. In the OT the word is usually SHEN meaning a sharp tooth or ivory but thrice is METHALLEAH meaning a cheek tooth (canine?) or jaw from the root to devour and once PIYPHIYAH meaning an edge or tooth. The NT word is ODOUS probably from EDO to eat.
What would God teach us from a word study on teeth?
The major lessons relate to their function. Sadly most of what we read about teeth is when they are used for evil. Teeth which eat what their owners lusted after, as in the wilderness (Num.11:33) died with their owners in the ensuing plague. Teeth which tear and bite may be employed by God in wild animals to attack people in chastisement (Deut. 32:24) or as swarms of locusts, like an enemy who comes in rapacious conquest (Joel 1:6), a picture of the final judgment. Those who stoned Stephen gnashed their teeth in blind hatred before murdering him (Acts 7:54) and throughout Scripture the anger and desire to kill or get revenge is expressed in gnashing of teeth (Job 16:9,Psalm 112:10, Psalm 35:16, Lam.2:16). Often this gnashing of the enemies of God’s people is the prelude to their seeking to bite and devour them (Psalm 124:6) and God has to break these lions’ teeth, and so disarm and defeat them, this he does through his own power or by his servants (Job 29:17, Ps. 58:6). The powerful teeth of great beasts illustrate the power of conquest and killing in war, of the great empires of the world in Daniel’s beasts that rise up out of the sea (Dan. 7: 5, 7, 19). The teeth of ravenous beasts is used as a picture of the power of the devouring evil demonic hordes in Revelation 9:8. These demons, like their master, do devour people and send them to the same place they will end up namely hell (I Peter 5:8). Similarly those in power who prey on the poor and needy without compassion, even to the extent of killing them are said to have teeth like knives (Prov.30:14). In hell the wicked will spend eternity gnashing their teeth in regret, pain and anguish, justly for what they did with their “teeth” to God’s people; see Matthew 24:51.