The Myth of the Tooth Fairy

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Like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy is a symbol of childhood. The Tooth Fairy exists in many cultures and across many religions. But where did the Tooth Fairy come from? Dr. Lund, Dr. Markham, and our team at Provo Pediatric Dentistry are happy to shed some light on the subject.

The Tooth Fairy came to be fairly recently, but myths and traditions that evolved into the Tooth Fairy date back for millennia. In early Norse and European tradition, when a child lost a baby tooth, the tooth was buried to save the child from hardships in the next life. In Europe, there was also a superstition that if a witch got a child’s tooth (or fingernail clippings or hair), she could place a curse on the child. Burying the tooth would hopefully prevent a curse from being placed on the child. Vikings believed that baby teeth and other items from their children would bring them good luck in battle.

There are many traditions relating to the loss of baby teeth going back thousands of years. When a child lost a baby tooth, they would do one or more of the following:

– Throw the tooth onto or over the roof of a dwelling
– Place the tooth in a mouse hole
– Bury the tooth in the ground
– Hide the tooth out of sight of animals
– Put the tooth inside a tree or on the wall
– Swallow the tooth, or have their mother or pet swallow it
– Throw the tooth into the sun
– Throw the tooth into the fire
– Throw the tooth backwards between the legs

More recently, the lost baby tooth would be “buried” under a pillow and replaced with gifts like money. In many countries (including Russia, Spain, and China), the “tooth deity” who takes the teeth and gives gifts is a mouse. This is because rodents continue to grow their teeth for their whole lives. In other countries, the tooth deity varies to include beavers, cats, dogs, and squirrels. The Tooth Fairy as we know her was inspired by the legend of the mouse and European legends of a good fairy. The Tooth Fairy’s popularity grew because of fairy characters in Disney movies.

The Tooth Fairy can be a way to encourage dental health in your child. Consider telling your child that the Tooth Fairy gives a larger reward for clean, healthy teeth. The legend of the Tooth Fairy and this kind of encouragement makes dental work easier for children. We welcome you to contact our dental office to schedule your child’s next visit with our dentists in Provo, Utah.