Whilst there are many facts, lots of information and tons of advice that dentists will relay to their patients, one aspect about teeth that they most certainly did not study when they were looking to become a dentist is the tooth fairy. Hopefully, you remember being told as a child by your parents that the tooth fairy comes in the night to take away a lost tooth and in return, they will leave a gift or money, but only if the tooth has been looked after.
Depending on your level of cynicism, you will see the tooth fairy story as either a fun way to encourage children to look after their teeth, a strange incentive for children to lose teeth, or a ploy by parents to get their children to go to bed early when one of their teeth out. We prefer to look for the positives and opt for the first one.
It might surprise you to learn that the origins of the tooth fairy and how they operate differ worldwide. Further, in some countries, if you mention the tooth fairy to children, you would see blank expressions. That is because not every country ‘has’ a tooth fairy, and something else exists.
In many South American countries, European countries, France, Italy, Spain, and Greece, it is not a fairy who collects teeth and leaves gifts or money; it is a mouse. To many children, the idea of a mouse crawling under their pillow at night might not be appealing, but in these countries, it seems to be perfectly okay.
One South American country, namely Brazil, does not have a mouse remove teeth, but a bird. In many African and Asian countries, lost teeth are thrown onto the house’s roof. In Japan, the key is whether the tooth came from the top or lower row. If upper, they throw teeth up in the air. If lower, the tooth is thrown on the ground. Whichever way they are thrown, the idea is that this allows the new teeth to grow straight and strong.
Turkish tradition is for children to bury their teeth in places that signify a prosperous future. In South Africa, the tooth is not placed under a pillow for the tooth fairy but in a slipper. Argentinian children put their lost teeth in a glass on their bedside table, whereas a box is used instead of a mirror in Mexico. In Afghanistan, children bury their lost teeth.
Returning to the tooth fairy, there are several theories about what they do with teeth, and these can be relayed to children to make the mystique of it all increase. They also help back up the point that the tooth fairy is looking for healthy and clean teeth. Ideas include the tooth fairy using teeth to :
- Build their fairy castle
- Putting them in the sky as stars
- Grinding them down to make fairy dust
- Making jewellery such as necklaces
Whatever the tooth fairy might use teeth for, they should be more than just a reason to give a child a gift for losing a tooth. When it is their first tooth, it is a milestone that parents should cherish. Further, whilst a child is still young enough to believe in the tooth fairy genuinely, it is a fun and helpful way to teach them good dental health and hygiene. You could even say it is magical.