Imagination. What if the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come? Where does the Tooth Fairy live? What does the Tooth Fairy look like? What does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth? …Echoes of the endless childhood chatter every time we lost a baby tooth until we were no longer children.
Reality. The Tooth Fairy will remember to come, and if she forgets, Mom or Dad will thoroughly check the pillows and see that the Tooth Fairy “remembered” after all. The Tooth Fairy lives in Fairyland, far, far away—maybe Ireland. No, not the North Pole. The Tooth Fairy is invisible, but parents can see her: She’s beautiful, but her teeth are a bit janky. Um… she saves them. Um… she wears them. Yes, that’s creepy. Actually, that’s how she makes fairy dust. …Echoes of parents trying their best.
Our parents tried their best to keep the magic of the Tooth Fairy (and other myths) real for us, so our wonder for the world would be bright and curious. But what if the Tooth Fairy was real? Let’s explore the origins of the Tooth Fairy and how they might play into the real world.
Where Did the Modern Tooth Fairy Come From?
The first mention of the Tooth Fairy occurred in the “Household Hints” section of the Chicago Tribune in 1908. So, the Tooth Fairy is officially a little over a hundred years old. The article’s author, Lillian Brown, suggested that parents should have children place their old baby teeth under their pillows at night—when the “Tooth Fairy” would come and leave a gift of five cents.
This hint was to help parents convince their children to pull loose baby teeth—having someone tie a string to your tooth and a doorknob wasn’t all that inviting to children of the early 20th century, either. The Tooth Fairy became a timeless supernatural character in Western popular culture.
Was There Ever a Real Tooth Fairy?
There was no fairy, but there was a tooth fee in the late 10th century. A “tand-fe” (tooth fee) was paid to any child who lost their first tooth. The tradition goes back to early records of Norse traditions; supernatural associations with children’s teeth were also held across Scandinavia and Europe.
Across Scandinavia, children’s teeth were positive symbols, perhaps of good fortune, as they were made into necklaces and worn during battle.
In the Middle Ages, people burned children’s teeth once they fell out because they believed that if a witch obtained any person’s teeth, they would have control or take possession of them.
Across Europe and Mexico, there was no Tooth Fairy, only a tooth mouse who took children’s teeth.
Where Is the Real Tooth Fairy Now?
Since the 90s, some parents considered themselves to be Tooth Fairy consultants, doing the Tooth Fairy’s job.
In 2018, Colgate reported that the going rate that children earned from their baby teeth was $3.70 a tooth with more paid for the first tooth lost.
Aside from burning holes in a parent’s pocket, what if the Tooth Fairy were real? Would the fairy and a mouse fight over a child’s tooth? Various dental websites say that the Tooth Fairy grinds up children’s teeth to make fairy dust and build castles in Fairyland.
Celtic fairy-like creatures were also tricksters, like the puca who could also transform into a domestic animal. Your cat could be the Tooth Fairy!
Many superstitions surround witches of the Middle Ages, but witches of the modern age may be a little kinder and encourage everyone to build a fairy altar or leave out a bit of bread, milk, or honey to honor the Good Friends; rather than encourage a trickster Tooth Fairy’s misdeeds.