Snakes are notorious for their fangs and even their bite. But what about teeth? Is this something they possess, and if so, how and why do they use them? I decided to research the topic; I would like to share this with you here today.
So, do snakes have teeth? Most species of snakes have teeth, but not all species of snakes have fangs. Snakes that do possess teeth can have up to 200 of them, all of which run inside and along their jaws. Snakes’ teeth are hard to see because their gums naturally conceal and cover them.
Snakes are exciting reptiles; built much differently than mammals.
Naturally, this raises a few questions – one of the most popular inquiries being their mouths.
Anyone who has found themselves staring at a snake with its bared fangs (through a picture or even in real life) may ask themselves whether or not snakes have any other teeth.
This question is difficult to answer because there is a lot of variety between snakes.
Nonetheless, in this article here today, we will be looking at some of the most astonishing facts about snake teeth.
We’ll be looking at the type of teeth snakes have, along with why some snakes do not have any teeth at all!
What Teeth Can Snakes Have?
Snakes have multiple rows of teeth, typically having four rows on the top and two rows on the bottom.
However, the exact number of teeth, their arrangement, and the number of rows will depend on the snake species.
While snakes can have any combination of teeth, when it comes to your pet snakes, you will likely have the following:
- One row of teeth on the lower jaw (on each side)
- Two rows of teeth on the upper jaw (on lower)
A crucial anatomical note to reference is that snakes do not have a mouth structure like ours. Instead of having a chin, their jawbones are connected to nothing in the middle.
This means that their upper and lower jaw are made up of four separate pieces.
This is one physiological thing that allows them to open up their mouths wide and swallow their food whole as they do.
If you were to look closely inside your snake’s mouth, it is unlikely that you would be able to see them.
Snakes have thick gums that serve to cover the teeth completely.
How Many Teeth Do Snakes Have?
The number and exact position of their teeth will vary depending on the same species of snake. Some are notorious for having dozens; others are more in the hundreds.
Boa constrictors are one such species with more teeth (100+). However, as Boas are not venomous, they do not possess any fangs.
Alternatively, a King Cobra has two large fangs, but a smaller amount of teeth (~20)
Why Don’t Some Snakes Have Teeth?
The evolution behind a snake may seem a bit disturbing to some people.
When we think of why we have teeth, we think about chewing up our food.
This is true for a lot of animals- including people – that need to break down the food in their mouths.
When it comes to herbivores, this is especially important.
There is a lot of variation depending on the type of snake and how they hunt their food in the wild.
As strict carnivores, snakes are not munching on salads or chewing up fruits. Instead, they are grabbing live prey and swallowing them whole.
Because their anatomy allows for prey’s swallowing in one swift gulp, they do not require teeth to chew their prey.
What are their teeth for then? Well, the purpose of a snake’s teeth is to hold its prey in place.
You may even notice that the hook-like structure of teeth makes it the perfect mechanism for latching onto prey.
If a snake needs to inject venom into its prey, it makes sense that they would have their teeth fashioned, so they are easy to strike and bite.
For other snakes that rely on constriction and suffocation, these teeth are less useful as the primary method of killing is done by tightly wrapping around the unsuspecting animal as quickly as possible.
As anyone with a pet will tell you, these evolutionary behaviors are retained in snakes, even if they are fed prey that is already dead.
These “frozen pinkies” are a safer option than ever, giving your snake live prey if it can be managed.
Types of Snakes Without Teeth
There are some species of snake that exist that do not have any teeth.
Perhaps the most striking example is egg-eating snakes.
As they have a diet exclusively of eggs, teeth are not required.
As such, they have not evolved to possess them.
Teeth would be counter-productive for them – preventing them from consuming larger eggs and merely getting in the way.
This is precisely why egg-eating snakes do not have teeth.
Moreover, due to the nature of their food, they do not have any fangs either.
Instead, they have small bone spurs that run along inside their spine. These are used to crack the shell of an egg that is consumed.
Snake Teeth Types:
There are many different types of teeth a snake can have. They all serve other purposes.
These fangs point backward and act almost like cable ties that lock prey in place. They are located farther back in the mouth, which could make it a little inconvenient to deliver venom (although some species of constrictor do have a mild venom).
These are a common tooth you would find owned by pet snakes -including some constrictors, garter snakes, kingsnakes, and corn snakes!
These are those giant, generic fangs you are used to seeing on TV.
They are fixed into their position on the snakes’ jaw and are owned mostly by the Elapid family’s snakes, including cobras and coral snakes.
Their most distinguishing feature is that they are completely hollow, making them ideal for venom bearers.
They connect directly to venom glands to quickly deliver high concentrations of venom into anything they get their mouths on.
These fangs also allow users to deliver venom. Besides being hollow for venom, they are also retractable (as you can see with rattlesnakes of vipers).
Unlike proteroglyphous fangs, these teeth are NOT directly fixed to the mouth’s roof and are instead connected through a hinge structure on the jaw.
What does this allow for?
Well, because the fangs can be stored away when not in use, fangs can be much longer than usual without any worries about being caught on the lower jaw and doing harm to the snake.
Again, these are not the kind of teeth you will see on your average pet store snake.
What Are Snake Teeth Like?
Snakes teeth are different from those that we own as humans.
As humans, we have teeth designed for grinding food – like our molars. These are large, dense, and have a large surface area.
They have rows of small teeth like incisors that run the entire way up their jaw for snakes.
Of course, this is because they do not need teeth to chew – catching and holding prey is their intention.
A snake’s teeth also point backward, which supports the capture of prey and prevents them from escaping.
They are also not venomous – instead, they’ll purely serve the function of ‘gripping.’
What Are Snake Teeth Made Of?
Despite their differences, snakes’ teeth are made up of the same material as ours and other animals; enamel.
Enamel is strong and durable, which is essential for the hunting activity of a snake. A snake’s teeth are also solid, being supported with a strong attachment to the jaw.
Fangs, on the other hand, differ.
They are actually hollow with a deep open hole that runs through the center.
This enables them to inject venom into their prey. This is where the venom passes through.
When Do Snakes Grow Teeth?
Snakes are born with teeth, unlike us humans. This ensures that when they hatch, they will be ready and able to eat.
Baby snakes have to support themselves from day one; their mothers do not wait for their eggs to hatch and move on during this time.
So, if you were to buy a hatchling, you would need to feed them from the moment they hatch. Snakes do not require milk or any alternative food source as you might expect.
The teeth and fangs are there from birth to prevent the need to go hungry.
In time, as the snake grows, so do their teeth.
A snake’s teeth will continue to grow long into their lives; new teeth will be formed throughout this time also.
Do Snakes Bite?
Snakes do bite – but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they make for a dangerous pet. Like many other animals, a snake will bite for several reasons, namely, when it feels threatened.
Any snake can bite you, but smaller snakes seem to be more on the nippier side.
With a proper amount of training and handling, your snake will begin to feel comfortable with you and less likely to try to take a bite out of your hand.
It is also smart to always make sure your hands are clean and your snake is fed before putting your hand in the enclosure.
A great tip is to check whether your snake is shedding its skin before you try to touch them. If you notice they are shedding, stay away.
They are often irritated and have trouble with their vision during this time. This may encourage them to lash out.
You will notice shedding when their skin is looking a little flaky, and their eyes are clouded over a put from the skin.
If it takes a long time for them to shed, consider looking into methods to help them shed faster.
Are All Snakes Venomous?
No, not all snakes are venomous.
Snakes without fangs are not. Most of the popular species of pet snakes will not even have fangs.
Luckily, even if your snake does possess fangs and you do get bit, it is unlikely to be too much of a problem.
Of course, their sharp fangs are often capable of drawing blood, but pet snake species are not the dangerous types you get in the wild.
Most of the tiny pet snakes you get have no venom whatsoever and are incapable of doing anything aside from leaving a mark for a while.
Constrictors, on the other hand, may cause a little more tissue damage. They are less likely to lash out than smaller snakes and also have no venom in them.
This is not true for all snakes, as several species are rather dangerous. Cobras, rattlesnakes, and copperheads can do quite a bit of damage due to the toxins in their fangs.
Again, these are not the kind of snakes that the average person keeps as a pet, so you likely have nothing to worry about.
There is always the risk of infection, and if the wound is substantial enough, you should consult with a physician regardless. There is still the chance open wound will result in infection.
Despite the relative popularity of snakes as pets, there are many things even snake-owners wonder and question.
Teeth are one such example.
While most snakes have teeth, not all snakes will have fangs. It all depends on the species of snake.
The gums often well conceal teeth, and even if your pet snake were to possess up to several hundred teeth, you would be unlikely to know.
Thankfully teeth are not venomous and are only there to support the process of eating.
So if you have a pet snake, you’ll be pleased to know that these are not something you need to worry about.
Here are some other interesting guides on snakes you may be interested in:
- Can Snakes Climb Stairs?
- Can Snakes Cry?
- Do Snakes Have Lungs?
- Do Snakes Recognize Their Owners?
- Do Snakes Have Feelings?
- Do Snakes Fart?
- Do Vegetarian Snakes Exist?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.