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.

  • 5
    FWIW, Toothless/The Night Fury design was changed from the books to the movies, as I understand.
    – phantom42
    May 1, 2014 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, 2014 at 12:51
  • 5
    The book is very different to the movie, they should be treated as separate regarding most canon questions, as they are not compatible. May 1, 2014 at 15:09
  • 3
    I like the theory that it is because of his plasma blast. He might have a super blast that we have not see yet that requires his teeth to be retracted or they will get damaged. Or maybe a wide area blast that can take out multiple opponents.
    – user59492
    Jan 17, 2016 at 18:23
  • @ToothlessTheory, while I like that you wanted to comment, until you can add an actual comment please do not add them as answers, thank you!
    – AncientSwordRage
    Jan 17, 2016 at 19:22

6 Answers 6


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.


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.


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.

  • 3
    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, 2014 at 20:47
  • 4
    It's worth noting that the Great White uses its mouth to explore the world much as we use our eyes and hands to explore. They often bite things out of curiosity ("exploratory bites"), which is why some shark attacks don't end as badly as they could potentially. They will bite debris, boat hulls and other unusual objects and then swim off. Their teeth are also designed to be replenished regularly. If Toothless also uses his mouth for exploration but doesn't have the ability to replenish his teeth, retracting them might be a way to protect them and keep them sharp for eating/defense. May 9, 2015 at 3:31
  • 1
    It was shown that dragons eat mostly fish, it could be adapted for the same reasons predatory fish did.
    – Aaron Abel
    Sep 28, 2023 at 17:28

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.

  • 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...
    – Valorum
    May 5, 2014 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.

  • 3
    But none of the other fire breathing dragons do it.
    – phantom42
    May 1, 2014 at 14:20
  • 1
    Well, his flame is the most concentrated of all the dragons. He's the only one that fires it off in a big burst. May 1, 2014 at 14:22
  • 7
    I would have said this too, but Toothless often fires plasma blasts with his teeth visible. May 1, 2014 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.


If any of you have seen the second movie then you would have realised that not even Hiccup's mother knew that night furies could retract their teeth. "Retractible teeth?! How on earth did you manage?" She is surprised by Toothless's teeth so maybe he is one of a kind. Maybe he is a whole new sub-species of night fury, a more dominant one seeing as he became the alpha just to protect his friends and family from the evil Bewilderbeast.


It is mentioned on some sites that his retractable teeth help him hook on to pray for a more powerful grip and bite. So in a way they help with hunting, and in fights. This is just a theroy, but they could also help to protect his mouth, since his mouth is flat.

  • 3
    Could you link to these sites or quote from them to fill out this answer?
    – Rincewind
    Jun 18, 2016 at 18:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.