Searching for shark's teeth is a favorite beach pastime. The black, gray, brown, tan, or off-white teeth can be distinguished from shell bits and other beach “debris” by their very shiny, enamaled-looking surface. Even when the tooth is dry, it will still be shiny. Another distinguishing feature is the fact that shark's teeth are difficult to break with your fingers. Most shells of a similar size and shape to a shark's tooth can easily be broken between your fingers. And another way to recognize a tooth: On an intact tooth, you will likely be able to see a difference in the surface of the tooth where it once was embedded within the jaw, and where it gleamed in the shark's mouth.
The dark shark's teeth are said to be fossilized (or at least old), and are the ones typically found. Strangely enough, even though there are still plenty of sharks out there, losing teeth, one seldom finds a fresh, ivory-white tooth.
Sharks have several rows of functioning teeth in the jaw, plus five to fifteen rows of “backup” teeth which can move to the front within 24 hours to replace the shed teeth. It is estimated that a tiger shark produces up to 24,000 teeth in a 10-year period.
Shark's teeth discovered on Carolina beaches might be from various species, such as:
The teeth found may range in size from one quarter of an inch to the impressive seven-inch, one-pound Megalodon tooth. The color of the tooth is determined by the color of the sediment in which the tooth is resting, as minerals from the sediment replace the original composition of the tooth.
A gray root area (or crown) with a black body is the most typical fossilized tooth coloration. Other colors are more prized. There are even examples of red shark's teeth.