Parents have been guiding children through tooth loss using rituals since the beginning of time. It’s a rite of passage that marks childhood. Mythical figures like the tooth fairy started so parents could help children through the experience of losing a tooth, which can be exciting, confusing, and with the help of the tooth fairy, magical.
The History of the Tooth Fairy
The first version of the Tooth Fairy dates back to 17th century in Europe. During that time, parents believed that burying their child’s baby teeth under a tree would prompt the growth of their adult teeth. A mythical creature in the form of a tiny mouse then left gifts, and as the practice evolved, money, for the lost teeth under the sleeping child’s pillow.
Asia, Russia, and Latin cultures developed similar traditions where mice or rabbits would leave presents for children in exchange for their baby teeth. Mice and rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so these figures were considered to hold “sympathetic magic” and transfer their good luck or traits to the child who lost the tooth.
In French and Italian culture, the first Tooth Fairy resembled a small, winged fairytale creature who only came out at night and did not interact with humans. This story eventually made its way across the Atlantic Ocean into the United States, where Disney’s interpretation of the Tooth Fairy as a winged female fairy with a wand and glittery trail became famous.
What does the Tooth Fairy do with Teeth?
Folklore tells us that the tooth fairy keeps teeth for different purposes. Some say she builds castles with clean and shiny teeth and crushes teeth that are not clean to make fairy dust. Other stories say the Tooth Fairy hands out baby teeth as gifts to other fairies, makes them into pretty jewelry, or takes the baby teeth and places them in the night sky as new stars before they lose their shine.
There are also stories the Tooth Fairy uses teeth she collects to help babies and adults who have no teeth or who have problems with their teeth. She does this by placing baby teeth in the gums of babies so they grow their own, or hands the baby teeth over to dentists who make implants with them for people in need.
The Tooth Fairy Today
The Tooth Fairy showed up in the United States starting in American literature in the early 1900’s and was popularized in the 1970’s as the female winged fairy. Today, the tooth fairy in the U.S. is still described this way and continues as a way for dentists and parents to educate children on this biological change in their bodies.
In Latin countries, the Tooth Fairy is currently a well-known mouse named Ratoncito Perez. Perez has become a pop symbol who appears in cartoons and is used to market dental products to children how the Tooth Fairy is in Canada or the US.
Fun Facts about Present-day Tooth Fairy
The tooth fairy collects about 300,000 teeth each night.
The average value of a single tooth today is $6.23, according to Delta Dental's 2023 poll.
Children have 20 baby teeth. This means the tooth fairy visits most children 20 times.
Tooth Fairy Resources