The tooth fairy is a fantasy figure of early childhood. When a child loses a baby tooth and places it beneath the bed pillow, legend says the tooth fairy will visit while they sleep, replacing the lost tooth with a small payment. The tradition of leaving a tooth under a pillow for the tooth fairy to collect is practiced in much of the Anglosphere.
The going rate for teeth collected by the Tooth Fairy is $1.50, to be exact. Not only that, but otherwise sane parents are shelling out as much as $5 and $10 a tooth right here in our fair city! And some have been known to get the Tooth Fairy to go as high as $500 a tooth.
The world's top TF authority was Rosemary Wells a former Dental School professor. She created the Tooth Fairy Museum in 1993 in Illinois and gathered a huge collection of TF memorabilia. Wells even researched TF economics and proved that the exchange rate for teeth had kept up with inflation. The Museum may have held definitive evidence of TF's existence, but unfortunately for research was liquidated after Wells died.
Dallas, Texas has America's "only professional tooth fairy". Dental hygienist Jennifer Vespia used to teach oral health in schools but the kids were bored. Therefore she became "Sparkle the Tooth Fairy". Terri Rimmer reports:
"She donned a set of huge wings, bought a bunch of glitter and found a dentist to pay for her to educate kids in a different way - as a Tooth Fairy…"
The tooth fairy as we now know her didn't make an appearance until the early 1900s, as a generalized "good fairy" with a professional specialization. The tooth fairy grew slowly in popularity over the next few decades. The Tooth Fairy, a three-act playlet for children by Esther Watkins Arnold, was published in 1927. Lee Rogow's story "The Tooth Fairy" appeared in 1949 and seems to be the first children's story written about the tooth fairy. She became widely popular from the 1950s onward, with a veritable eruption of children's books, cartoons, jokes, etc., including more focus on children's dental hygiene. Parents cheerfully bought into the idea and the tooth fairy became part of family life. The 1980s saw the commercialization and merchandising of the tooth fairy, with special pillows, dolls, banks, etc.
A child normally has twenty baby teeth and starts losing them at around age 5 or 6. Back when witches were believed to use pieces of your body, such as hair and fingernail clippings, to direct magic and curses at you, proper disposal of teeth was a serious business. The process differed by culture, from throwing the tooth up to the sun or over the roof, to feeding them to an animal (usually a mouse). The tooth could be buried, hidden, swallowed, or burned (sometimes after salting). In some cultures only the first exfoliated tooth was ritually disposed of.
Anyway, as people migrated to this country, many of the same beliefs and superstitions followed them. However, since most of the people now found themselves living n towns and cities, bare land wasn't as plentiful. So they began placing the teeth in small flowerpots, or planter boxes. Eventually this rite too changed, and the fallen out tooth was placed under a child's pillow, where the parents switched the tooth (always in the middle of the night) for a treat or a coin. Of course the curious children wanted to know what happened to their small teeth. And since children love to hear stories, their parents explained to them who was actually removing their teeth and leaving the treat in its place. The Tooth Fairy was born. All children grew to love this rite of passage, and the coming of the Tooth Fairy.
Centuries ago, in Europe it was a common practice when a child's baby tooth fell out (primary tooth), to bury it in the ground. The tooth was, in all likelihood, buried in the garden or in the field's surrounding the child's home. It was done so that a new tooth (permanent tooth) would grow in its place. The other reason for this ritual was the superstition, that if a witch got a hold of the tooth, a curse could be placed on the child, (as with fingernail clippings and/or hair). So by burying their children's teeth, this unfortunate curse was prevented from happening. Hopefully.
In France, Spain, Mexico and province of Quebec... the Tooth Fairy tranforms into a Magical Mouse who takes the teeth and brings good luck and gifts to the child ! In Mexico, the little Tooth Mouse would take baby teeth and leave a coin in payment. He would use the teeth to replace the ones he lost from chewing on tough stuff. In parts of India, China, Korea and Japan, baby teeth are also thrown on the roof for good luck. Some cultures throw lower teeth under the bed. Parents also may like to store the little teeth as a keepsake, which are occasionally made into little charms or other jewelery. In Brazil these little tooth jewels are sometimes gold-plated.
The ancient Egyptians believed the sun made teeth strong, so they threw lost teeth towards the sun. Vikings had a "tooth fee " given to children in exchange of their baby tooth. This mysterious belief was thought to bring luck and power in battle.
The origin of the tooth fairy is unknown, but the tale is usually passed by word of mouth from parents to children.
The Tooth fairy traditionally helps to mark major developmental stages in life, the passage from infancy to childhood, pre-teen and teenage years. She visits believers who have lost a baby tooth, and placed it under their pillow while sleeping at night. Sometimes baby teeth are also called "milkteeth". In North America, Australia, and Europe the Tooth fairy traditionally appears as a female winged sprite who leaves behind small gifts, coins or sometimes paper money to replace a lost baby tooth.
The Tooth Fairy is the only fairy native to America. (Tinker Bell's from England). Most -- 74 per cent -- people surveyed believe the tooth fairy is female, but 12 per cent think it is neither and 8 per cent think it could be either.