The Tooth Fairy who sneaks into your child’s bedroom, trading their teeth for money (adjusted for inflation, of course), is a fairly modern tradition in the United States, spun from a handful of timeless myths. If you’re curious to know more about how this mysterious winged helper came to exist, read on.
The Deep Origins of the Tooth Fairy
The mystical creature we know in the U.S. is rather recent creation. The world over, cultures have long held beliefs about and traditions to celebrate the loss of a child’s baby teeth. Baby teeth were often buried in a place that would lend good luck to the child or thrown into a fire. But our modern idea is most closely tied to a more recent European tradition involving a mouse who takes away a child’s baby teeth by entering their room at night.
The modern idea of a fairy collecting teeth emerged in the U.S. in the 1920s, though she didn’t gain popularity until a few decades later. A mishmash of the tooth-snatching mouse and the myth of the good fairy, the Tooth Fairy appeared in a 1927 playlet by Esther Watkins Arnold. Written for children, the story laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the myth of the tooth fairy we know today.
The Tooth Fairy Grows Up
After the tradition became more commonplace, in part because of the popularity of Disney fairies, she became a keystone experience of being in a child. Known for bringing money to children for their lost teeth, in the early years she usually left a few coins, however today children expect to receive upwards of $3 for a recently pulled tooth.
But beyond being a valuable money-making occasion for children, a visit from the Tooth Fairy is now a popular way for a dentist to encourage better oral hygiene in their patients. A child’s dentist will often encourage them to get their teeth as clean as popular to catch a better prize for a lost tooth, turning a long-popular tradition into a moment to boost a child’s oral health, too.