August 22 is National Tooth Fairy Day.  (Apparently, so is February 28.)  And it would seem our fabled colleague has a rather long history.

According to Spear Education– “Centuries ago in Europe, the tradition of “hiding” a child’s primary tooth that fell out began. Some of the earliest practices included burying a tooth in the garden, known as tooth gardens, to prevent an “evil witch” from stealing it and casting a spell on the child…  Over time, the tradition in America went through many phases. For instance, up until the late 1800s, many people believed that swallowing the tooth was the best way of preventing evil from getting ahold of it. Some people even believed that if an animal swallowed the tooth, the new tooth growing in would resemble the tooth from that particular animal. A common belief during this time was to force a mouse or rat to eat the tooth to ensure the teeth growing in would be sharp and strong.”

The Straight Dope writes, “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 child loses a baby tooth, which is put under the pillow at night, and the tooth fairy exchanges it for a present, usually money but sometimes candy. Exchanges of this sort are common in many rites of passage (like an exchange of rings at a wedding, say).

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.”

According to Delta Dental’s Tooth Fairy Poll, the Tooth Fairy’s giving habits tend to follow the stock market.

And Visa’s 2011 Tooth Fairy Survey findings include:

  • 10% of children receive no money from the Tooth Fairy.
  • 7% of children receive less than a dollar.
  • 29% of children receive exactly $1.
  • 18% of children receive between $2 to $4.
  • 18% of children receive $5.

The Tooth Fairy is an American tradition with European and superstitious roots.  And since she brings joy (and money) to children all across the country, easing the emotional pain of losing a tooth, we are proud to celebrate her National Day.

Dr. Steve

Roseville Family Dentist

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