Do Snakes Have Teeth?

do snakes have teeth

From the Norse mythology to the Garden of Eden, a few animals in nature have inspired our myths and legends with such fascination and fear as the snake.

I believe part of their appeal can be attributed to their notoriously venomous fangs.

While most of us must have seen pictures of these two deadly needles, aside from their fangs, do snakes have teeth?

Most non-poisonous snakes have teeth, usually four rows on the top and two on the bottom. However, only venomous snakes have fangs that they use to inject venom into prey. The egg-eating snake is one of the few snake species that doesn’t have teeth or fangs.

If you’re curious to know whether all snakes have teeth and fangs, and if there’s any difference between the two then keep on reading!

Do All Snakes Have Teeth?

This might seem like a simple question, but with more than 3,000 species of snakes on the planet, one can’t expect to get one simple answer that encompasses all snakes.

Snakes are divided into different breeds that come in different sizes, with their own anatomy and deadly set of skills that help them survive in this world.

Most snake species have teeth that help them strike at their prey, as well as support the process of eating and swallowing, but only venomous snakes have fangs. But snake teeth and retractable fangs can be hard to see since they are usually concealed by their gums. 

Most mammals use their teeth differently from snakes, sure they can bite down on their prey, but they usually use their teeth to tear the flesh and their teeth also help them with chewing.

Snakes on the other hand don’t tear or chew their prey, instead, they use their teeth to push the whole prey down their throat as they swallow it whole.

While most snakes have teeth, they aren’t all the same. Certain species have different types of teeth, and the density and number of their teeth can also differ.

Do All Snakes Have Fangs?

We can generalize and say that most snakes have teeth, but when it comes to fangs there’s a clear divide between the venomous and non-venomous snake species.

While non-venomous snakes don’t have fangs, all 600 venomous snake species on the plant have fangs, but they usually have fewer teeth because they mostly rely on their fangs and the venom they can inject through them, to hunt, kill and eat their prey.

Despite that, non-poisonous snakes have their own way of using their teeth. For example, the boa constrictors don’t have fangs, but according to reptile experts, they have over 100 teeth, with four rows of teeth in the upper jaw and two in the lower.

Their strong teeth point backward at a sharp angle, and as you can imagine the inward position of their teeth helps them hold on to their prey as they strangle it. The more the prey struggles to escape the deeper their teeth sink it. Ouch!

Since constrictors don’t use venom, their prey usually will struggle to escape. In this situation, fangs and smaller teeth would be less efficient and they would be more prone to breaking. So, instead, they restrain their prey with their curved teeth and use their constrictive killing technique.

Both venomous and non-venomous snakes can be deadly, there are highly venomous snakes like the black mamba, with fangs that none of us would like to come up against.

Non-venomous snakes like the green anaconda on the other hand are also known for being the largest and more efficient killers. No, wonder they made a movie about them!

How Many Teeth Do Snakes Have?

It’s clear that the mouth of the snake is nothing like ours, but as we’ve already established different snake species can also have a different number of teeth, the number of rows can also vary as well as the arrangement and how highly developed they are.

The Elapidae family that contains 350 species of venomous snakes, like the Cobras, mambas, sea snakes and the coral snake usually have fangs at the front and a variable number of small, solid, recurved teeth at the back.

The number of teeth these venomous snakes have can range from four to 35. While pythons just like the boa constrictors that are non-venomous and don’t have fangs can have more than 100 teeth, with four rows in their upper jaw and two rows in their lower jaw.

If you look at pictures of snake skulls then it’s easy to see how venomous snakes have sparse teeth. While they do have teeth that help them draw their prey in, they still rely on their fangs to do the real work of killing or immobilizing their prey.

On the other hand, non-venomous jaws are packed with teeth with the front section usually being larger and stronger so not only can they strike at their prey, but they can also restrict its movement.

What Snake Species Have The Most Teeth?

By now you probably have guessed that venomous snakes don’t get a spot in this category.

The snake that has the most teeth is the boa constrictor, a non-venomous snake that can reach up to 4 m. It has more than 100 large, sharp, and recurved teeth, with four rows in the upper jaw and two in the lower.

While they don’t have any venom to paralyze or kill their prey, they have their strong muscles that can restrain and strangle their prey, while their large jaw lines unhinge, and their inward teeth help them swallow the poor animal whole.

So, it makes sense that constrictors go for larger animals, unlike their venomous cousins that mostly eat small rodents, birds, and frogs.

What Snake Species Have Fewer Teeth?

The king cobra might be “one of the most venomous snakes on the planet,” as National Geographic has put it, and the most intelligent according to our list, but they don’t have a lot of teeth.

The king cobra obviously has two venomous fangs, as well as 3-5 teeth that are formed along the upper front jawbone. They also have two rows of small teeth in the lower jaw but only a small number and they are quite sparse.

There are other snake species that have very small teeth like the milk snake or teeth that are obscured by their gums, like the garter snake, that could also be a good fit for this section, but the king cobra is obviously the rightful winner in this category.

What Snake Species Don’t Have Teeth?

Snakes no matter how big or small need their teeth to either hold their prey in place or inject it with venom. There are many snake breeds that have fewer teeth than others, and some have tiny razor blades that you can hardly see.

However, the egg-eating snake doesn’t have any teeth or fangs because they don’t really need them. The diet of this snake consists exclusively of eggs. They only have a row of small bone spurs that go along their spine inside their throat that helps break the shell of the eggs.

What’s fascinating is that the egg-eating snakes will consume the inside of the egg and then regurgitate the crushed shell.

You can see the whole process in this video and it truly blew my mind!

These species are native to sub-Saharan Africa and northeastern India and they are non-venomous, and the lack of teeth and venom could truly make the egg-eating snake a wonderful companion with the least menacing snake yawn!

What Are Snake Teeth Made Of?

Snake teeth and fangs might not look like human teeth but they are made of the same strong and durable materials. In fact, teeth are considered to be the hardest part of the body.

Teeth mostly consist of a calcified tissue called dentine, and it’s covered in enamel, a hard shiny layer. While our teeth are made of the same materials, snake teeth are thinner, more brittle, and can easily break under pressure.

But snakes don’t have to use their teeth to chew their food, instead, their teeth are inverted so they can get a good grip of their prey, so it doesn’t escape. Their teeth also help push their prey deeper down their throat and towards their stomach, basically swallowing them altogether.

This also explains why some snakes, especially the non-venomous species have more than one row of teeth, both at the top and bottom of their jawline.

Are Fangs And Teeth The Same Thing?

Different snake species can have 4 different types of teeth. Some of them have multiple rows of densely packed teeth, while others rely mainly on their fangs.

The most significant difference between fangs and teeth is their use. Fangs as you can imagine are used to inject venom into their victims while teeth help snakes swallow them.

Types Of Snake Teeth

Let’s take a closer look at the 4 types of teeth snakes can have.

Aglyphous Teeth

Only non-venomous snake species, like the boa and the pythons, the indigo snakes, and the kind snake among others have aglyphous teeth. Snakes with these teeth don’t have fangs, and all the teeth in their mouth are similar in size and structure.

Aglyphous teeth point backward since their main purpose is to secure the snake’s grip on their prey. Even as the snake uses its muscle to push the prey further down their throat, the teeth help them lock their prey in place leaving no room for it to escape.

Of course, these snakes also use their teeth to strike and catch their prey, but once they do then the prey’s fate is sealed.

Solenoglyphous Teeth

I think the solenoglyphous teeth are the most fascinating type. Snakes with such teeth have fangs that are “pipe grooved” meaning they are hollow.

Through the hollow fangs, the snakes deliver their venom, but their unique anatomy doesn’t stop there. Their fangs are also retractable, folded back against the roof of the snake’s mouth.

Since the fangs are folded, they are much longer than regular fangs. The greater length lets the snake penetrate their prey deeper and inject larger quantities of venom, which makes it even more powerful and lethal.

These fangs belong exclusively to vipers which according to snake author Andrew Solway “can rotate their fangs together or independently, which allows them to wait until the last second to erect their fangs.”

What’s more fascinating about vipers and their fangs, is that they can bite you without injecting venom, called the “dry bite” if they think it’s best to conserve their venom.

Proteroglyphous Teeth

Snakes with proteroglyphous teeth have very few teeth overall, but their most important feature is the two fangs, located at the front. Unlike the solenoglyphous folded fangs we mentioned above these fangs don’t move and they point downwards, that’s why they’re much shorter. 

These snake fangs are also hollow, like a needle, so they’re directly connected to the snake’s venom glands. Their venom consists of toxins that destroy the nervous system of their prey and it’s one of the most dangerous poisons.

Snakes like the King Cobra have this type of teeth and since their fangs are shorter than they need to bite into their prey for longer so they can inject the venom.

Some spitting cobras also have proteroglyphous teeth, the only difference is that they also have small holes that allow them to spray their venom just as the muscles of their venomous glands contract.

Opisthoglyphous Teeth

Finally, we have snakes like the boomslang and twig snake that have very unique teeth. Instead of fangs they have enlarged teeth at the back of their jaw.

These teeth aren’t hollow but grooved and that’s why usually these snakes can’t produce enough pressure to inject the venom. They also will have to quickly catch the prey and move it to the back of their jaw to poison them.

But this doesn’t mean we should underestimate them because boomslang and twig snakes can be quite dangerous even lethal to humans.

When Do Snake Teeth Start To Grow?

Unlike human babies, snakes develop their teeth while they’re still inside their egg or their mother. When they are born they’re like a miniature version of their parents, with a full set of teeth and with potent venom, if they are venomous.

A popular myth is that baby snakes are more venomous because they’re unable to control their venom or “dry bite.”

However, “adult snakes are as dangerous, or more dangerous, than a young snake,” David Steen a snake researcher explains. “Adult snakes can have more venom than juveniles.”

So, basically, if you see a baby king cobra you’ll need to stop yourself from going “aww” and move away from it as soon and as far as possible!

Can Snakes Grow Their Teeth Back?

All snakes rely on their teeth for survival, some use them to deliver large quantities of venom, while others hold their prey in place.

But what would happen if a snake lost their tooth while battling their prey. As we’ve already mentioned before, snake teeth aren’t as strong and resilient as human teeth.

Snake teeth are brittle and weak, and they can easily lose a tooth or two when they’re on the hunt. Lucky for them, snakes are “polyphyodonts” and losing a tooth is not an issue since they can regrow or replace all their teeth at any point throughout their whole life.

You might wonder why I used the word replace, but it seems that not only does a snake can grow its lost tooth back, but it can also move one of its inner teeth forward to take the place of its lost tooth.

Another cool fact about snakes is that they can sharpen their teeth by shedding them and according to the Carnegie Museum “snakes will occasionally swallow their shed fangs!”

Obviously, nothing happens to them, but it must be strange to end up eating your own teeth as you consume your food.

Are All Snake Fangs Hollow?

As I’ve already mentioned before there are thousands of different snake species out there, out of all these snakes about 600 species are actually venomous and only the venomous snakes have fangs.

This is still a large number and it makes sense that there are going to be many variations among these snakes and the type of fangs they have.

There are many snake species that have hollow fangs, like the rattlesnakes and cobras. But according to new research, not all snakes use hollow fangs to inject venom into their prey. Instead, their fangs have a groove at the back from which the venom flows and enters the wound.

Depending on their prey snakes can have deeper grooves that help their venom enter without being brushed away by the bird’s feathers. For example, the Boiga dendrophila is one of these snakes that have rear fangs with groves instead of being hollow.

Do Non-Venomous Snakes have Fangs?

It’s not always easy to know the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes and what to look for.

Most snake species have teeth, but non-venomous snakes don’t have fangs because they don’t have any venom to inject into their prey. Instead, they need multiple rows of strong teeth along their jawline so they can bite and immobilize their struggling prey.

Some species may have longer front teeth, that can resemble fangs, but these aren’t considered fangs. Snakes like boas will use these large teeth to strike and grab their prey and they can also serve as a defense mechanism.

Even the smallest non-venomous breed will have tiny teeth to hunt and attack anyone who’s in their way.

What Snake Has The Longest Fangs?

While I do love all snake breeds and I do have a warm spot in my heart for non-venomous fangless snakes, there’s something mesmerizing about snakes with fangs, and I wonder which breed has the most impressive set.

Well according to the Guinness World Records, the unsurprisingly highly venomous gaboon viper (Bitis gabonice) has the longest fangs, measuring up to 5cm (2 inches) long. Just like most vipers, the gaboon viper fangs are also retractable and hollow.

This lethal snake is so venomous that a male Gabon viper could inject enough venom into 30 individual men and unfortunately, their lives would most likely not end with a happy ever after.

Aside from being incredibly venomous, and with the longest fangs, the gaboon viper is also the heaviest venomous snake in Africa, weighing 8 kg (18 pounds) and it can grow as long as 2 meters (7 feet) in length.

This little fella might still be small, but that fast strike is enough to make my heart skip a beat!

Thankfully it’s not easy to come across the gaboon viper because it lives in the tropical forests of central and western Africa, and if undisturbed it’s quite docile.

To be honest I don’t really know who would want to disturb the Gaboon Viper and their 2-inch fangs!

Are Non-venomous Teeth Dangerous?

Getting bitten by a snake can be scary especially if you’re not sure if they are venomous or not. But plenty of people share their living space with non-venomous snakes and some can even slither or crawl into their back yard.

Though let’s be honest, even a non-venomous snake can make someone nervous, however, does it make sense to fear these snakes?

While non-venomous snakes don’t have venomous fangs, they can still bite you if they feel threatened. A snake bite like this could cause an infection, and even serious bleeding and larger non-venomous snakes like pythons that have more than 100 teeth can inflict significant damage.

It’s also the way non-venomous teeth are positioned that can make them more dangerous. Since their teeth face backwards they will dig into your skin as you try to pull the snake off of you.

Even mall snakes can cause bruising, bleeding, or a small wound and an infection, but a python or a boa can also use their bodies to wrap around your limb and make it even more difficult to remove them.

But it’s important to note that snakes aren’t out there looking for a fight. Most snakes, even the venomous kind, would rather use their speed to slither away from any possible threat and danger.

Snakes will only strike as a last resort and that’s when they feel cornered. As a snake owner, you most likely will get bitten a few times before you’ll begin to understand your snake’s body language and the reasons behind their bite.

I’m sure that with time and proper handling your snake will start feeling more comfortable around you!

Closing Thoughts

Most snakes in the world have enough teeth to make you cautious and some of them can make you feel frightened and that’s not without a reason.

Whether a snake has a pair of venomous fangs, or it’s a regular rat snake without a drop of venom, I think we can all agree it’s best to avoid their razor-sharp teeth.

If it’s your pet snake we’re talking about, then all you have to do is make sure they’re well-handled, unless it’s an egg-eating snake in which case they can bite away!

Did you know that there’s a difference between snake teeth and fangs?