The History of the Tooth Fairy

Tooth FairyWhen your child loses a baby tooth, he or she probably puts it under the pillow and eagerly waits to find money in its place the next morning. It seems a timeless ritual as old as childhood itself. However, if you have ever stopped to think about it, the tooth fairy is a fascinating cultural phenomenon. Where did she come from, anyway? How long has she been around? In this post, your Rochester, MN general dentist explores the origins of the tooth fairy and her role in modern day childhood.

Ancient Origins

Ritual is an important part of the human experience and of childhood in particular. Cross culturally, the loss of baby teeth has been accompanied by ceremony for thousands of years. Some cultures believed that if the wrong person gained possession of a lost tooth, it could be used for curses and other forms of black magic. For this reason, teeth were carefully disposed of in a variety of ways, including burial, fire, throwing the tooth at the sun, and throwing it over the roof of a house while invoking an animal or deity. In many cultures, people fed lost teeth to animals, believing that the new adult teeth would share characteristics of the animals that ate them. Across the globe, teeth were often fed to mice and rats since these creatures usually have strong, healthy teeth. In fact, this ritual is still observed in many parts of the world. In modern day France, children leave their teeth for La Petite Souris, and in Spain children wait for Ratoncito Perez.

The Development of the Tooth Fairy

Most experts believe that the tooth fairy evolved from the legends surrounding La Petite Souris. In the French story, a fairy changes into a mouse in order to torment an evil king. Under the guise of a rodent, he hides under the king’s pillow and knocks out all of his teeth in one night. This rather morbid and violent children’s tale took on a more agreeable form in the children’s play The Tooth Fairy, published by Esther Watkins Arnold in 1927. The sprite gained greater popularity when the short story “The Tooth Fairy” was published in 1949. With an added boost from Disney movies such as Cinderella, she soon became an established part of the American mythos.

The Tooth Fairy Today

The tooth fairy is not only popular among children; parents like her as well. According to a study conducted by Rosemary Wells, the world’s foremost authority on the tooth fairy, 97% of parents reported a positive or neutral feeling towards the little creature. Experts speculate that the appearance of the tooth fairy takes away some of the fear that surrounds the loss of a tooth, arguably the first step towards adulthood that most children must make. Perhaps the tooth fairy also adds incentive for children to maintain good dental hygiene. Whatever the reason for her popularity, there is no doubt that she is a much beloved figure. She appears to be quite the economist, as well. Studies show that the tooth fairy has kept up with inflation. According to a 2013 study from Visa, she leaves an average of $3.70 per tooth – up 42% from 2011.

Looking for a family dentist? Dr. Gilly Calcagno offers a wide range of dental services for the entire family, and she is especially passionate about treating young patients. To book an appointment for yourself or for your child, call Calcagno Cosmetic & Restorative Dentistry today at (507) 281-3659. Dr. Calcagno proudly treats patients in Rochester, Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, and the surrounding areas.