The Tooth Fairy Tradition
Why Do We Leave Teeth Under The Pillow For The Tooth Fairy?
Does your child believe in the Tooth Fairy? Most of us tucked our lost teeth under our pillows and found a quarter the next morning when we were young. It appears that the tooth fairy’s existence is well accepted in America, although these days a quarter doesn’t seem to be the going rate for a tooth anymore. The influence of American commercialization has jacked up the reward to about a buck a tooth!! According to a survey conducted at Northwestern University Dental School, approximately 97% of the participants (all adults) professed either neutral or positive perceptions of the tooth fairy, so apparently the practice lives on. But how did the Tooth Fairy come to exist?
Origin of the Tooth Fairy
In ancient society, a number of superstitions surrounded the loss of a tooth. The loss of a child’s first tooth was particularly significant, but in some cultures mystical consequences were associated when anyone’s tooth came out, young or old. These ancient peoples often used for various dark rituals and black magic, so if a person’s tooth was obtained by the wrong hands, it could be used to harm them. Subsequently, a variety of rituals evolved around the disposal of teeth to protect the owner. One ceremony in particular is notable – they fed children’s teeth to animals, often mice or rats, with the expectation that the child would grow strong, healthy teeth like the rodents, as it is a rare occurrence to see a rodent with no front teeth. Although it is assumed they weren’t wishing prominent buckteeth for the child, in a world where preventative dental care did not yet exist, it was believed that the child would acquire the positive dental qualities of whatever animal consumed the tooth.
The Myth Continues
It is interesting to follow the role of mice in the cultural development of the tooth fairy through history. The actual fairy incarnation may have partially originated based on the French fairy tale La Petite Souris. In this fable, a cunning fairy plotted revenge on an evil king by hiding under his pillow after transforming into a mouse. He awoke toothless after she tortured him all night by knocking his teeth out one after the other and hiding them under the pillow as he slept.
The Tooth Fairy in American Culture
Why has the tooth fairy become such an enduring character in America? It has been put forward that belief in the tooth fairy helps to reduce children’s fear associated with losing their baby teeth by offering a “prize” for bravery, although apparently in the earlier years it wasn’t always a financial reward. Almost a century ago, the first written documentation of the tooth fairy was published as a children’s play called The Tooth Fairy. In 1949, a short story called The Tooth Fairy was published in Collier Magazine. By then, the tradition of leaving a tooth under the pillow for a prize was well established and had adapted to reflect an American mentality, with anticipation of a monetary prize for this symbol of growing up. The introduction of fairy tales and fantasy to the public via TV and Disneyland by Walt Disney, particularly represented by Tinkerbell (although she wasn’t actually intended to be depicted as a tooth fairy) contributed to the growing popularity of the tooth fairy. As America became more commercially oriented during the economically prosperous years of the 1980’s, manufacturers began to develop fairy dolls, toys, and accessories, further cementing the acceptance of the tooth fairy as a tradition for generations of children. There are even certificates, envelopes, and templates for “receipts” from the Tooth Fairy on the Internet.
Fortunately, parents no longer have to feed their children’s lost teeth to rodents to promote strong and healthy teeth. Starting proper preventative care and maintenance of your children’s teeth by about age one at Alabama Family Dentistry, providing dental care for the whole family, for patients living in Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, Sumiton, and surrounding central Alabama communities, will ensure that the tooth fairy will be happy to find clean, healthy teeth tucked under the pillow.