Do Snakes Have Teeth

Yes, most species of snake have teeth but there are some that don’t. However, snakes don’t use their teeth to chew their food like people do.

With over 3000 different species of snake out there, there are a lot of differences between species when it comes to their teeth.

When many people think of snake teeth, they think of long fangs that are used to inject venom into its victim. However, not all snakes have fangs and these snakes use their teeth for other reasons.

Do Snakes have Teeth
Jo Zimny Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

Do snakes have teeth like humans?

Snake teeth are very different to human teeth as they are used for a very different reason. Different species of snake can have very different looking teeth.

This is for a variety of different reasons including whether the snake is venomous or non-venomous, the type of prey that they eat and the overall size of the snake.

Human teeth are specially designed for chewing food. However, as snakes swallow their prey whole, they do not need the same kind of teeth as humans.

Venomous snakes have fangs that they use to inject their venom into prey. The makeup of these fangs can vary significantly between species.

Many species of vipers have large fangs that can retract in their mouth while most elapids have smaller fangs to the front of their mouth. 

Some species of snake are rear-fanged, meaning the fangs are towards the back of their mouth. These snakes have to ‘chew’ on their victim in order to inject their venom.

Most snakes have terth that curve backwards. This serves two primary functions. Firstly, they act as hooks to hold onto prey as they grab them.

The second function of curved teeth is to help the snake swallow its meal. They move their teeth forward and pull their prey towards the back of their throat.

How many teeth do snakes have?

The number of teeth a snake has varies from species to species. Some snakes such as egg eaters, have very few teeth.

However, most snakes do have teeth but the exact number can range from a couple of dozen to a few hundred teeth.

The arrangement of their teeth, the exact number of teeth and the number of rows of teeth can all vary greatly from one snake to another.

The type of teeth a snake has and the total number of teeth in their mouth is generally dictated by the family that the snake belongs to and how they eat their food.

For example, a Boa Constrictor doesn’t need to have large retractable fangs like a viper as the primary function of their teeth is to grab their prey and hold while they constrict their body around the prey.

Green Tree Pythons have a large number of jagged teeth so they can hold onto prey that they catch high in the canopies.

Egg Eating Snakes don’t need these large teeth to hook onto their prey as eggs can’t escape their grasp.

What Kind of Teeth do Snakes Have?

Do snakes have teeth that are the same no matter what species it is? The simple answer to this question is no. There are a number of different types of teeth a snake can have.

There are 4 different types of teeth that can be found in snakes. The family of snake usually dictates what type of teeth they will have but there are always exceptions to this.

The 4 different types of teeth found in snakes are called Aglyphous Teeth, Solenoglyphous Fangs, Proteroglyphous Fangs and Opisthoglyphous Fangs.

Aglyphous Teeth

Aglyphous Teeth are the sharp teeth that are found in most species of snake. They typically point backwards and help the snake to ‘hook’ their prey.

These teeth play a vital role in the initial catching of prey it makes it difficult for the prey to escape the curved teeth.

They also help the snake to swallow its meal. The curved teeth help push the prey towards the back of its mouth, allowing the snake to swallow its meal whole.

These teeth are common in non-venomous species of snakes such as Pythons and Boas. These constrictors use their teeth to grip and hold their prey while they coil their muscular body around them.

Solenoglyphous Fangs

Solenoglyphous Teeth are extremely evolved fangs that act as a delivery system for the snake’s venom through hollow cavities in the teeth.

These fangs are also retractable meaning the snake can fold the teeth against the roof of its mouth when their mouth is closed.

This allows the snake to have large fangs in relation to the size of their mouth and many of the species with Solenoglyphous Teeth have very long fangs.

These fangs are not rigidly connected to the snake’s mouth. Instead, they are connected to a hinged structure in the snake’s jaw. This is what enables the teeth to retract.

As the snake opens its mouth, the teeth are pushed forward so that the fangs are extended like the rest of the snakes’ teeth. 

These types of teeth are found in Vipers and these snakes can extend their teeth up to 180 degrees.

The fangs on these Vipers are typically much larger than the fangs on Elapids due to the fa t that they can retract them and ‘store’ them on the roof of their mouth.

In general, the venom of these vipers isn’t as strong as the venom in elapids but due to their large venom glands and large teeth that can puncture deeper, they can inject higher quantities of venom which can be just as lethal.

These fangs are designed for maximum envenomation in the quickest time possible. They are so efficient that research on fossils suggest that they have barely changed in over 40 million years.

Proteroglyphous Teeth

Proteroglyphous Teeth are a set of fangs that are located in the front of the snake’s mouth. Unlike Solenoglyphous teeth, these fangs are typically smaller and do not retract back into the snake’s mouth.

 These fangs are also used as a venom delivery system. They are completely hollow and are connected directly to the venom glands.

Proteroglyphous fangs are typically found in elapids. These venomous snakes include species such as cobras and black mambas.

The venom that these types of snake’s produce is often extremely toxic and can be lethal, even in small doses. 

The delivery system that these snakes have isn’t as efficient as vipers and they often need to bite and hold their prey long enough to inject the venom.

However, as the venom is so potent, only a very small amount is typically needed to kill their prey.

There are some species of snakes that have modified Proteroglyphous fangs that allow them to ‘spit’ their venom. This is usually as a defensive mechanism and not for catching prey.

The snakes that spit their venom are belonged to the cobra family and are known collectively as Spitting Cobras. This group contains species such as the Mozambique Spitting Cobra.

These snakes have orifices in their fangs which allow them to spit their venom by contracting the muscles in their venom glands.

Opisthoglyphous Teeth

Opisthoglyphous teeth are a set of fangs that can be found towards the back of a snake’s mouth. These types of fangs are typically found in venomous colubrid snakes.

This is a very unique family of snake as most species are non-venomous. However, others can be lethal to humans, such as the boomslang and twig snakes.

There are other species of colubrid snakes that have venomous Opisthoglyphous Fangs but the toxins are weak and the delivery system is very poor that they are no threat to humans.

The toxins in these types of snakes are typically designed to help with digestion as opposed to killing prey.

Do Snakes Lose their Teeth?

Snakes are polyphyodonts. Thos means that when they lose a tooth, it is replaced by a new one.

A lot of species of snake can go through many sets of teeth in their lifetime. These new teeth are sharper and stronger than the one it just lost.

This is important for the snake as many species rely on their teeth to catch prey. Whether this is a green tree python grasping a meal high in the canopy or a viper needing sharp teeth to inject venom.

Many other species can also go through many sets of teeth in their lifetime. This is an important process for predators such as sharks and piranhas who couldn’t survive without sharp teeth.

Do snakes have teeth that are hollow?

Most snakes don’t have hollow teeth. The teeth in non-venomous snakes are not hollow at all. They are solid and are used to catch prey and assist with swallowing.

Many species of venomous snakes have hollow fangs that connect to venom glands in the head of the snake. The venom runs through these hollow cavities in the fangs.

Other species of venomous snakes don’t even have hollow fangs. Instead, they have ridges or grooves that run down their teeth. The venom is guided along these ridges to the tip of their teeth.