The Lore behind the Tooth Fairy – The American Mythos in the Dental Universe


Even though Tooth Fairy as we understand it is a relatively recent invention, it is a concept that has developed over time. Throughout the years, many different tales, myths, and customs have surrounded the disappearance of baby teeth. 

While the tale of the Tooth Fairy varies greatly across countries, most societies have some sort of ritual on how a child’s misplaced baby teeth are discarded of.

Some people put the teeth in a fire, while others hurled them over the top of a house, and yet others believed the teeth should be buried. Early European traditions urged burying the child’s teeth to avert troubles, whilst other civilizations would wear their children’s teeth to experience greater fighting luck. 

One of the more recent European legends was a tooth god in the guise of a mouse that invaded children’s bedrooms to steal their baby teeth.

The idea of the good fairy, along with the mythology of the tooth divine mouse, developed the Tooth Fairy we currently know in America. As a result, we came up with a fairy creature who left tooth fairy goodies in place of missing teeth.

The contemporary Tooth Fairy initially appeared in a children’s playlet written by Esther Watkins Arnold in 1927. While mythology was relatively unknown in the 1920s and 1930s, it picked up steam as Disney fairy figures became famous.

So, what’s the status of the tradition in America, currently? When children begin to lose their baby teeth, they place the tooth under their pillow in the hopes that the Tooth Fairy would appear and exchange the tooth for a little sum of money.

Years ago, the Tooth Fairy could have left a little coin beneath a pillow, but because of inflation, the Tooth Fairy now leaves dollars. According to a recent Delta Dental poll, the average reward from the Tooth Fairy is $5.25.

Across the Planet: How Do Other Communities Honor the Tooth Fairy?

The Tooth Fairy travels all over the world! Other cultures have varied ways of honoring the Tooth Fairy or their interpretation of the fable. The Tooth Fairy is commemorated in a variety of ways across the world, including:

  • Burying the Tooth — Children in Afghanistan conceal their lost teeth in a mouse hole, but families in Turkey hide their children’s newborn teeth at a location that they believe would bring their kids prosperity.
  • Putting It in a Slipper – A dropped tooth in South Africa is placed in footwear. A gift is then placed by a mythical mouse, of course.
  • Throwing the Tooth — The population of several Asian countries such as China, Japan, India, Vietnam, etc., toss their teeth over the top of a roof. This custom may be traced back centuries to nations in the Middle East.
  • In a Glass – In Argentina, youngsters deposit lost teeth in a glass next to their bed in the hopes of receiving a coin or sweets in their stead.
  • The Tooth in a Box — In Mexico, a broken baby tooth is usually placed in a little box beside a child’s bed. According to folklore, a mystical mouse will arrive to grab the tooth and drop some cash behind.

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