Cary dentist explores origin of tooth fairy

When a child loses a baby tooth, what happens next? In most households in the United States, the child will put the tooth under their pillow or in a special place for the tooth fairy who will then take the tooth and leave a small amount of money in its place. While it’s a pretty standard practice, where did this come from? Who thought of the Tooth Fairy? Our Cary dentists did a little digging into the legend and origins of the Tooth Fairy to find out.

Origins of the Tooth Fairy

The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus both have well documented origins that date back several centuries, but the same can’t be said for the Tooth Fairy. In fact, her origins are a bit of a mystery. The first known mention of trading a tooth for a coin dates back to Northern Europe, circa 1200 with the tand-fé, or “tooth fee.”

In the Middle Ages, it was thought that witches would use teeth in curses and spells, so parents would take baby teeth and either bury, burn, or swallow them. One superstition held that if a baby tooth was fed to an animal, the adult tooth would resemble the tooth of the animal that swallowed it. Because mice were thought to have strong, healthy teeth, parents would leave the tooth out for mice to get.

The Tooth Mouse

How we think of the Tooth Fairy today most likely comes from an 18th century French fairy tale called La Bonne Petite Souris. In this tale, a wicked king imprisons the kind and beautiful queen in a tower. She asks a mouse in the tower, the only one she can turn to, for help. It turns out, the mouse is a fairy who releases the queen and knocks all the king’s teeth out while he sleeps. After that story, children in Europe began placing their teeth in their shoes in exchange for small gifts or coins. As the trend crossed the ocean, the Tooth Mouse became the Tooth Fairy and children placed baby teeth under their pillow.

Do Other Countries Have a Tooth Fairy?

While we’ve talked about the United States and Europe, the tradition of exchanging baby teeth for gifts is practiced around the globe.

  • Afghanistan: Children bury teeth in a mouse hole;
  • Turkey: Parents bury baby teeth in a place they think will bring their child success;
  • South Africa: A lost tooth is placed in a slipper and a magical mouse will take it and leave behind a gift;
  • India, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and China: People toss the tooth over a rooftop for good luck;
  • Argentina: Children put a lost tooth in a glass by their bed and it will be replaced with a coin or candy while they sleep;
  • Mexico: Instead of under their pillow, children place a lost tooth in a small box next to their bed and a magical mouse will take the tooth and leave coins behind.

Schedule a Checkup to Keep Your Child’s Teeth Healthy

Even though baby teeth do fall out over time, it’s important to keep them in excellent health. If your child is due for a teeth cleaning or checkup, call one of our offices. You can reach us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919)-600-6262 and our Cary dentist office at (919) 467-2203. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.