The Old-Time Tale of the Tooth Fairy

A Childhood Folk Story

The tooth fairy is an iconic folktale of early childhood that’s believed to have started in the early 20th century. When children lose one of their baby teeth, they place it beneath their pillow and a fairy-like figure collects it while they’re sleeping. She then leaves monetary reimbursement for the tooth, ranging anywhere from a few cents to a couple of dollars.

Unlike other mythological characters, different variations of the tooth fairy exist across respective religions and cultures. Discover how this folktale is represented from one side to the other of the world.

English Tooth Fairy

In England, there’s an old-time tradition that if a child’s tooth fell out, they have to throw it into a fire. For the reason that it’ll prevent children from having to look for their tooth after death. 

The element of fire was said to have raised beliefs of witchcraft during the Middle Ages. Those perceived to be witches were typically burned because people believed currency emerged after they tossed items into fire. When a witch burned a person’s hair, teeth, or clothing, they allegedly gained power over them. This narrative conveys the significance of a lost tooth.

Because of this, parents would convince children to keep their lost tooth or burn the tooth to keep themselves free of demonic possession.

French Tooth Fairy

A pocket-sized mouse named La Bonne Petit Souris is France’s version of the tooth fairy. Similar to the popular tale, french children place their lost tooth under their pillow before going to bed. 

The mouse takes the tooth while they’re asleep, and replaces it with a gift or sweet treats, rather than money. This can involve a toy car or a piece of chocolate.

If a sweet treat appears, it’s important not to indulge too much or it can lead to cavities, decay, and even tooth loss. Dentists like Dr. Keith Macdonald in Archdale, NC make sure to explain the dangers of tooth loss when educating his patients.

Spanish Tooth Fairy

In Latin countries, the tooth fairy comes in the form of a mouse as well. He goes by the name of Ratoncito Perez, or El Raton de Los Dientes which translates to a mouse who collects teeth.

Equivalent to the French, this mouse gathers lost teeth under a child’s pillow and replaces it with a gift or sometimes, money. It’s been said that a few children in Argentina place their tooth in a glass of water before bed. And when the mouse appears, he drinks the water — tooth and all.

Placing teeth in water may remind people of a time when grandpa’s dentures were floating in a glass cup. Thanks to dental innovation, specialists like Dr. Kevin Kremer can offer patients implant-supported overdentures. They snap in place, providing for a secure tooth replacement option that doesn’t slide out of place.

Mongolian Tooth Fairy

Throughout Central Asia, specifically Mongolia, it’s tradition to give your lost tooth to a dog. They’re believed to be a respectful guardian angel among children. In most cases, the baby tooth is put in meat fat to feed it to the dog.

This custom takes place because when the guardian angel eats it, a tooth will grow as strong as the dog’s teeth. For families lacking a furry friend, they say to bury the tooth by a tree so the new tooth has strong roots.

To help encourage strong roots, well-rounded dentists like Dr. Kate Sahafi recommend visiting the dentist every six months for a routine check-up and teeth cleaning. They’ll clean and polish those pearly whites to last a lifetime. 

And There’s More!

Variations of the familiar folktale continue across other countries, such as Austria, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, and more. Distinctive rituals go back thousands of years in almost every culture.

In Austria, the lost tooth is turned into a pendant head or key ring, or it’s thrown under or over the house, depending on which tooth it is. Japan, Korea, and Vietnam follow a similar tradition of throwing the baby tooth by the house. This symbolizes whether the new tooth will grow upward or downward.

No matter where you’re from, you can always count on the tooth fairy.