Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy is a piece of childhood and imagination that many kids share in common. However, unlike St. Nick and the bunny, our sweet fairy’s history is a little more difficult to trace. The tooth fairy that we know and love today has changed significantly over time. In fact, she is barely recognizable next to the legends and myths of her origin.
The Origin of the Tooth Fairy
The Dark Ages
During the days of witch hunts, people believed that witches could curse someone using their lost teeth. Because of this belief, it was imperative that baby teeth be properly disposed of to save children from hexing. To ensure you were safe, the tooth had to either be swallowed, buried, or burned.
There used to be the tradition of tand-fé or tooth fee. This was only paid when a child lost their very first tooth. This tradition is recorded in the earliest written records of Northern European traditions.
Viking children were paid for their teeth. The Vikings believed that children’s teeth brought good luck. The baby teeth were then strung onto necklaces and worn into battle.
One of the earliest tales of a tooth fairy type character was in the French story “La Bonne Petite Souris.” The story is about a mouse that turns into a fairy and helps a wrongfully imprisoned queen defeat the evil king. The mouse hides under the king’s pillow and takes his teeth while he is sleeping.
The Tooth Fairy Today
Luckily for us, the Tooth Fairy of today is neither a witch or a mouse. For most people, they think of the tooth fairy as a creature that swaps out our baby teeth for money under our pillow. No one knows what she does with our teeth after she takes them, but to a little kid, that’s not what’s important.
Visa does an annual Tooth Fairy survey and they found that the going rate of a child’s tooth in America is $3.19. That might seem high to some parents, but that is actually down from the previous year. Considering inflation, the children of today actually get a significantly lower amount per tooth than kids in the past.
Whether the Tooth Fairy brings $1 or $20, the loss of a baby tooth is a perfect time to talk with your child about proper oral care. Losing teeth is one more step towards growing up. Take the opportunity to tell your child a little more about their mouth and how to care for their new adult teeth.