Snakes have a reputation for being deadly creatures that can swallow animals whole–even those that are larger than them. But when all they need to do is swallow their prey, they seem to have no need for tools for chewing food. So, are snakes toothless creatures?
Most species of snakes do have teeth. However, unlike humans and other animals, they don’t use teeth for chewing. Instead, they use their teeth to catch and hold on to their prey, making it easier for them to swallow their food whole.
Fascinated by snakes? Let’s find out more about their teeth, the different kinds of snake teeth, how they function, and what to do when you get bitten by a snake.
How Many Teeth Do Snakes Have?
On average, snakes can have anywhere from 70 to a little over a hundred teeth. Some species even have up to 300. These teeth must not be confused with fangs, however, which are different and exist for a different purpose–injecting deadly venom into prey.
If you’re looking into a snake’s mouth to try and count its teeth, though, you may not be very successful. Most snakes have teeth that are hidden in their gums along the bottom jaw. Most snakes also lose their teeth after a struggle with prey, especially when it’s one that’s much larger than the snake’s body.
Also, having teeth has nothing to do with a snake being venomous. Both venomous and non-venomous species do have teeth. The number of these depends on the species.
Do All Snakes Have Teeth?
While most snakes do have teeth, there are species that do not have any teeth or fangs. These types of snakes are commonly brought home as pets because they cannot bite or inject any venom. Most toothless snakes are also quite small, which makes them look less threatening.
However, if you are unsure what type of snake you’re looking at, do not automatically assume that it’s non-venomous or toothless if it’s small. One example of such a snake–tiny, yet deadly–is the spotted dwarf adder, which is native to Africa.
Take note, too, that even the King Cobra, the most poisonous and longest snake in the world, goes through the baby stage when it’s tiny and harmless-looking.
What Are Snake Teeth For
Snakes that have teeth use it not to grind their food into easily digestible bits. Instead, they use these teeth to hook, catch, or hold on to their prey. When there is a struggle between predator and prey, which is usually the case, these teeth help the snake secure its catch, allowing fresh food to be gobbled up whole into the snake’s stomach.
Venomous snakes also have fangs, which guide snake venom into prey. It used to be believed that snake fangs were hollow, delivering poison the way syringe needles deliver medicine. However, we now know that fangs are actually solid, not hollow. However, they do have grooves that guide the venom into the prey’s skin.
What Are Snakes With No Teeth?
Some examples of snakes with no teeth are the gansi, the garter snake, and the green snake. Because of the absence of teeth or fangs, these snakes are often brought home as pets. Toothless snakes eat creatures that require little to no struggle to catch, like eggs, slugs, and mice.
If you’re thinking of getting yourself a pet snake, here are home-friendly options to choose from:
- Gansi or egg-eating snake
- Milk snake
- Garter snake
- Green snake
- Rat snake
- Water snake
First-Aid for Snake Bites
If you like spending time in the wild or simply have a keen interest in snakes, chances are you may get bitten by one. All snakes are not made alike. Some are completely harmless, some have venom that’s a little potent, while others are extremely poisonous and can kill in a matter of minutes.
Here’s what you need to do when that unfortunate bite happens.
Note the Time of the Bite
The first thing to do is to immediately take note of the time you got bitten. This is very important for medical professionals to better monitor the condition of the bite as well as the reaction of your body to the venom, if what got you was a venomous one.
Aside from the time, take a mental note of what the snake looked like. You will want to remember its size, color, and other distinguishing features, like the shape of its head. Most venomous snakes have a more triangular-shaped head.
Clean the Wound
The next thing to do when you experience a bite is to clean the wound. Wash the area where you got bitten with soap and water. If you have an antiseptic solution ready, you can also apply that to the bite wound once you have washed it clean.
Be gentle when cleaning the wound, though, and refrain from rubbing or scratching. You do not want to irritate the area.
Bandage the Area
Once your wound is clean, cover it up with a clean bandage, preferably a gauze that can protect the wound but that is breathable at the same time. You want the bite wound to be kept cool, so you can either wet the bandage a bit or use a moist dressing.
Do not put an ice or warm compress on the bite mark. Leave it alone once you have covered it up.
Call for Emergency Medical Help
If you are not sure what snake bit you, do not attempt to treat the bite on your own. First-aid treatment won’t cut it, especially if you were bitten by a snake with lethal venom. As soon as your wound is bandaged, call for emergency assistance right away or have someone take you to the nearest ER.
Snakes are incredible creatures. Teeth or no teeth, the way their bodies work can captivate any curious mind. And it’s amazing that though you shouldn’t go anywhere near most of them, there are a few that you can take home and take care of. Talk about the whole jungle experience!