Tooth Fairy Tales and Traditions

Tooth Fairy Tales and Traditions
Posted on 05/11/2016

That first loose tooth is an exciting milestone for kids everywhere. When the first baby tooth is lost, many parents share the concept of the tooth fairy with their kids. Most of us know how it works, you give the fairy your tooth and you get a gift in return. But where did this get started and why is it done?

Many cultures the world over have varying versions of this practice. Almost all of them are based on superstitions from the past. However, the exchange remains a recurring theme and has been used to prompt kids to remove and dispose of loose teeth.

Back In the Day...

Some ancient peoples believed baby teeth to be good luck charms and were willing to pay for them so that they might be worn. Making baby teeth into jewelry has remained a practice up to the present day. Other methods of keeping lost teeth have emerged as well over time. In America for example, it is common to preserve a person's "First Tooth" as a keepsake.

A few centuries back, lost baby teeth were supposed to be buried. The superstitions behind this included fear that a witch could control another person if she possessed an item that belonged to them or that a baby tooth must to be planted for the adult tooth to grow in its place. At some point though, this burying changed from outside in the dirt to inside under a pillow.

Other interesting traditions included throwing a bottom tooth upward and throwing an upper tooth downward. This was thought to help the following adult tooth erupt in the appropriate direction and come in correctly aligned. It seems to be a tradition less known in America, possibly due to orthodontic treatment being a cultural norm.

What Does the Tooth Fairy Look Like?

The tooth fairy is actually the American version of this tradition and does not go back nearly as far as others. In multiple cultures a mouse, rat, or squirrel is often the one who collects lost baby teeth. Some theorize that this is owing to the constantly growing teeth, small size, and sneaky nature characteristic of rodents.

What Is A Baby Tooth Worth?

A 2013 survey revealed that American kids receive an average of $3.70 per tooth. The reward for a baby tooth is most often money but sometimes candy or a small treasures are given. Many parents want the experience to be unique for their kids and there are some creative products available for purchase as a result.

The Big Idea

In 1908, the Chicago Daily Tribune featured this Household Hints piece by Lillian Brown on The Tooth Fairy:

  • "Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5 cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions."

The tooth fairy can encourage kids to remove loose teeth, use their imaginations, or teach them some kind of life lesson. There is no right or wrong way to introduce the tooth fairy to your kids.

If you have any personal tooth fairy traditions you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments below!