The History of the Tooth Fairy

Dentist in Oregon City, OR Dr. Johnson

Maybe your child’s baby teeth are falling out and the tooth fairy will soon be fluttering through your home. Many children enjoy the notion of the tooth fairy because it adds an element of surprise and wonder to losing their baby teeth.

For a child, losing a baby tooth is a rite of passage into a big kid world. They compare losing teeth stories with their friends at school. It becomes a notion of “I’m a big kid now.” But what about the real story of the tooth fairy? Do you ever wonder when the tooth fairy started to come to collect teeth and leave money?

Dentist in Oregon City, OR Dr. Johnson and the team at Oregon City Family Dentistry tracked down the relevant history of the tooth fairy and why this fiction has inspired generations of hope and happiness to families across the world.

What is the Tooth Fairy?

The tooth fairy is a fantasy figure for many children, much like the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause. The folklore unfolds that when a child loses a baby tooth and places it beneath the bed or pillow, the tooth fairy visits while the child is sleeping. The fairy will replace the lost tooth with a small payment of some sort.

Where is the Tooth Fairy From?

Although tracking down the origins of the tooth fairy can take the magic out of this exciting myth, we did a little research to uncover the real start of this mysterious fairy.  In the Middle Ages, it was believed that witches could gain control over people if they had any physical part of them – by gaining access to their hair, clothing or teeth they could in turn work their magic.

But the tooth fairy didn’t really enter the scene during the middle ages. In fact, some of the rituals around tooth disposal weren’t quite as dark. Some parents would bury their children’s baby teeth in the garden so new adult teeth would grow in strong and straight. Believe it or not, Vikings believed that having a child’s tooth was good luck in battle, so they would often create jewelry from the teeth of children.

Generations of parents in old Europe would tell their children about the tooth fairy. The idea of having a fairy leave money in exchange for the beautiful baby tooth became a ritual children could look forward to. The tooth fairy took the element of fear out of loosing baby teeth. In essence, the fantasy helps ease the uneasiness of the unknown. Losing a tooth could be scary if a child does not understand the big picture. Allowing the tooth fairy to collect teeth and leave money is a nice way to soften the anxiety brought by change.

When Should Parents Tell Their Children the Truth?

Many parents ask our Oregon City dentist whether they should tell their children about the tooth fairy. We always say you don’t need to tell them; the natural promotion of the fiction story will not usually hinder your trust with the child. In fact, the majority of children report positive outcomes. Upon learning the tooth fairy is not real, 75% of children reported liking the custom, 20% were neutral and 3% were not in favor and said they did not intend to continue the practice when they became parents.

Usually children start to question the myth between the ages of  5 and 8. At this time they are wondering about other fictitious characters such as Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. Usually upon learning about those, they put it together that perhaps the tooth fairy is a fable as well.

Whether you decide to celebrate the tooth fairy or not in your household, the idea of getting valuable money for your baby teeth is part of a childhood tradition that traces back to our ancient ancestors. And who doesn’t love a good story?