Odontogenesis has only been closely scrutinized at the molecular level in the mouse, an animal with an extremely restricted dentition of only two types and one set. However, within osteichthyans many species display complex and extensive dentitions, which questions the extent to which information from the mouse is applicable to all osteichthyans. We present novel comparative molecular and morphological data in the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that show that three genes, essential for murine odontogenesis, follow identical spatial-temporal expression. Thus, at all tooth bud sites, epithelial genes Pitx–2 and Shh initiate the odontogenic cascade, resulting in dental mesenchymal Bmp–4 expression, importantly, including the previously unknown formation of replacement teeth. Significantly, this spatial–temporal sequence is the same for marginal and lingual dentitions, but we find notable differences regarding the deployment of Pitx–2 in the developing pharyngeal dentition. This difference may be highly significant in relation to the theory that dentitions may have evolved from pharyngeal tooth sets in jawless fishes. We have provided the first data on operational genes in tooth development to show that the same signalling genes choreograph this evolutionary stable event in fishes since the osteichthyan divergence 420 Myr ago, with the identical spatial–temporal expression as in mammals.