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When Hiccup first meets Toothless, he is menaced by a mouthful of sharp teeth.

The next time they meet, Hiccup notices that Toothless appears to have no teeth (leading to his name), only to have a full mouthful of teeth spring out from the gums.

It seems they are retractable, but that seems to be a rather odd feature, and I can't think of any other creatures that have retractable teeth (short of vampire fangs).

Toothless without teeth: Toothless Toothless

Toothless with teeth: Toothy Toothless

Is any explanation given for why his teeth are retractable? I don't recall hearing anything about it in the movie, but I know it is based on books, plus a bunch of supplemental materials are available.

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FWIW, Toothless/The Night Fury design was changed from the books to the movies, as I understand. –  phantom42 May 1 at 12:44
    
@phantom42 A quick glance at the books' wikipedia entry agrees with that, but Toothless is still named Toothless in the books. There's no indication if he has retractable teeth in the books, though. –  Beofett May 1 at 12:51
    
The book is very different to the movie, they should be treated as separate regarding most canon questions, as they are not compatible. –  Neil Slater May 1 at 15:09

4 Answers 4

Unfortunately I haven't really read the books but as far as the movie franchise there's nothing really saying why Toothless has retractable teeth although it's most likely a common trait for Night Furies.

http://howtotrainyourdragon.wikia.com/wiki/Toothless

Toothless gets his name from his sets of retractable teeth. Toothless is the only Night Fury seen thus far in the franchise, so his physical appearance is all that can be studied to learn about Night Fury anatomy.

Other than that I don't believe there's a canon answer. Although in real life Sharks actually have retractable teeth.

E-How Great White Shark Teeth

Jaws Like a Cat's Claw

The great white shark has rows of teeth behind the main ones. The teeth are unattached to the jaw and are retractable, like a cat's claw, moving into place when the jaw is opened. The great white sharks teeth rotate on their own axis, moving outward when the jaw is opened and inward when the jaw is closed. The great white shark's teeth are linked to pressure and senor-sensing nerve cells, which give their teeth high tactile sensitivity.

There are other animals that have retractable teeth like Anglerfish as well.

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/25-sliced-anglerfish-that-fishes

When the anglerfish’s jaw opens, it creates suction that pulls her victim inside. In some species, retractable teeth spring down, trapping the meal. An expand­able stomach can hold fish larger than the anglerfish herself. High-speed cinematography from the University of Washington has revealed that anglerfish can pop open their mouths in just four milliseconds.

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Bravo for pointing out examples in the real world of animals who have retractable teeth. Comparing to a shark is quite apt too most likely. –  Doc May 1 at 20:47

I don't think it's explained in the movie but in the book version he is named "Toothless" and is actually completely toothless.

Maybe they didn't want to change his name for the movie and made him (seemingly) toothless because of that.

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An good point well made. If you could back this up with a quote it would go from good to great. Given that they're relying on a good turnout from existing readers of the book series, it makes excellent sense not to rename the characters... –  Richard May 5 at 23:52

It makes sense for a fire-breathing dragon (who, in HTTYD, breathes fire by igniting a napalm-like gel) to be able to retract his teeth to prevent damage while expelling the substance.

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2  
But none of the other fire breathing dragons do it. –  phantom42 May 1 at 14:20
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Well, his flame is the most concentrated of all the dragons. He's the only one that fires it off in a big burst. –  ilinamorato May 1 at 14:22
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I would have said this too, but Toothless often fires plasma blasts with his teeth visible. –  Ben Williams May 1 at 15:47

For the movie Toothless is based on a cat, so his teeth could be like the claws of a cat, only coming out when needed. I have not read the book, so this is a guess - but do the Vikings not have a tradition of naming people with silly or demeaning names so the babies won't get stolen by fairies. Naming a fierce Dragon toothless, is kind of like naming a powerful Viking Scrawny.

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