Mom, Where Did the Tooth Fairy Come From?

So maybe you’re not expecting that question from your little tyke anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be fully prepared to regale tooth fairy baby teethyour children with tales of that generous sprite known as the tooth fairy. The legend itself has some quirky origins, preceded and followed by arguably stranger ideas about the inherent power of teeth and the importance of mice.

Here are just a few of the superstitions and myths that have swirled around the topic of teeth and the tooth fairy…

  • At a time when belief in witches and their dark powers was rampant, people were especially keen on proper tooth disposal. After all, witches and the like could use them as talismans or to send curses your way. Depending on the culture, you might have thrown the tooth toward the sun, over the roof, fed it to an animal (a mouse was the most popular choice), or buried it, hidden it, or swallowed it yourself (eek!).
  • Even to this day, it’s not so odd to see people wearing animal teeth, such as a shark’s tooth, as a good luck charm. This tradition dates back many centuries.
  • You were hoping for another mouse factoid, am I right? I hope so, because here it comes. Perhaps the first recorded instance of a tooth fairy dates back to the 1700s, when the tale “La Bonne Petite Souris,” or in English, “The Good Little Mouse,” entered into popular culture. The story goes that a fairy transforms into a mouse, or a mouse into a fairy (we’re not quite sure all these years later), to assist a virtuous queen in defeating her enemy, an evil king. In the process of ensuring his downfall, the mouse-fairy knocks out several of the king’s teeth. The legend of a tooth fairy mouse still persists in some Latin American and European nations today.
  • In the 1920s, a play for children was published by Esther Watkin’s Arnold called The Tooth Fairy. The popular play thrust the now-beloved character into the limelight, and by a few short decades later, the tooth fairy had a starring role in movies, cartoons, books, and of course, in households all across America!

Wonder what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth? Turns out the best resource for that info is kids, so ask your child what he or she thinks happens to all the baby teeth the tooth fairy collects from around the world. Be sure to share their creative ideas on the subject with us at your next checkup and cleaning visit!