By Joe Gargiulo
August 8, 2013

Biting into Dental Collections for Shark Week

dentist-debt-collection-shark-weekSink your teeth into this! Just in time for Shark Week, come on in, the water’s just fine. We’re talking about taking a big bite out of dental collections – collecting shark teeth, that is! (Did we fool you there?) Shark Week on the Discovery Channel may focus on shark attacks, shark survivor stories, and even shark habitats, but we’re more focused on those Great Whites opening up and saying “Ahhhhh.” With a bite that’s able to achieve 132 pounds per square inch, sharks’ mouths make for very toothsome subject matter.

Where’s the Tooth Fairy?

These massive swimmers don’t have a little fairy tooth-mother hovering around, slipping a buck under their sea urchin-covered pillows every time they lose one of their razor-sharp teeth. (If they did, they’d be RICH.) What they do have, though, is a coterie of rabid collectors, searching for these treasures. Chances are, your baby teeth aren’t sitting in a museum somewhere. But the renowned Smithsonian is proudly home to the largest collection of shark teeth in the world, numbering over 90,000 total. And that means there’s a lot for even the most novice collector to seek out.

Open Wide

There are actually 370 different species of these creatures, and they really do live up to their Jaws monikers. Unlike humans, who go through just two sets of teeth in a lifetime, sharks have unlimited regrowth. Their eight (eight!) rows of teeth are razor sharp and constantly regenerate, with up to 24,000 teeth coming in and out in a 10 year period, or 50,000 in a lifetime. No wonder beaches are literally littered with these collectors’ items.

Not So (Great) White Finds

When humans experience brown or black teeth, it’s a definite alert to hit the dentist’s chair. Not so much with sharks. Their teeth range the color spectrum as well as size. Sharks’ teeth can vary by multiple inches, and black teeth don’t mean they’ve been hitting the underwater candy shop too often. We’re sure that humans having one-pound teeth would be a nightmare for dental hygienists, but sharks regularly carry around dozens of them every day (until they fall out, that is, which can be in as little as one day’s time). Maybe that’s why they’re considered so angry all the time? You would too if your mouth weighed 40 pounds.

Crazed Collectors

We could have used the pun, “chomping at the bit,” but we spared you. Still, there really is evidence of people going crazy for these tiny and not-so-tiny teeth. When you’re ready to dive in and start making your own collection, you don’t need any special equipment. Just time and possibly, flexibility. Pick a beach and start wading through the detritus that washes up. Collectors spend a lot of time bent over, rooting through piles.

The Discovery Channel suggests you head out during low tide and look for shelf drops in the ocean. Dark sand can also be a place for a major jaw-ejection jackpot. You can also hit the internet for advice on the best places to find sharks’ teeth. Myrtle Beach comes up at the top of many search engines. You may even find yourself planning vacations around where you can add to your dental collection. If you’re really bitten by the bug, you can journey to Venice, Florida, where each year, the Shark’s Tooth and Seafood Festival occurs.

Then again, you just never know where you’ll find a shark. Commuters on a New York City subway train found themselves sharing a car with an unlikely passenger during Shark Week – CNN reports that riders knew the dead shark they found on board was real by looking at its teeth. How it got there remains a mystery at our press time, but it’s interesting to know sharks and humans have something in common – we can both be identified by our teeth.

Nobody collects late-paying accounts on purpose, but if by chance, your collection is bordering on hoarder status, lurking below is a free guide to help you navigate a course back to profitability:


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