The Tale of the Tooth Fairy

No one ever sees her, but you know when she’s been there.

She only visits at night.

She searches under your pillow while you’re sleeping.

She wants your teeth.

Sounds a little scary? Don’t be afraid – We’re talking about the Tooth Fairy!

Most Americans are familiar with the tale of the sweet, tooth collecting sprite that visits at night, looking for teeth that have fallen out. She kindly leaves a few dollars under their pillow as payment, and then goes on about her merry way. It’s a popular story in the United States, and one that most children look forward to experiencing, but do you know how the Tooth Fairy got her start? Dr. Erpenbach gets a lot of questions about the Tooth Fairy when treating his littlest patients , but the real story of the Tooth Fairy may even surprise some adults.

Like many American folktales, the story of Tooth Fairy originated with Europeans. Many European cultures and populations throughout history have legends and beliefs regarding tooth disposal. Viking and Nordic warriors thought children’s teeth were good luck and would wear them into battle. In England during the Middle Ages, children buried their teeth to hide them from witches to prevent the curse of bad teeth. In Spain, France, and Greece, children would go to bed hoping that benevolent rats or mice would take their teeth, and leave behind small gifts and the gift of healthy and strong teeth behind.

As people from all over Europe immigrated to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century, they brought with them their beliefs and stories about tooth disposal. Traditional stories commingled along with cultures. Slowly, the teeth-stealing witches and gift-giving rodents were replaced with the new image of the kind, money bringing fairy and a new, American tradition was started for freshly minted, first-generation Americans.

Some researchers also think the Tooth Fairy got a little boost because of Walt Disney. Disney movies like Cinderella feature benevolent fairies that are there to help during difficult or scary situations. Because losing a tooth can be scary for a child, the story of the Tooth Fairy became one of comfort.

While the story of the Tooth Fairy has grown to become a commonplace practice, the amount that the Tooth Fairy gives has also grown. In the 1950s and 60s, it was typical for her to leave just a dime. This is in contrast to the average Tooth Fairy gift in 2015 of $3.19 – down from 2014’s $3.90.

If you have questions about the Tooth Fairy or any other dental questions for Dr. Erpenbach, call him today at 865-584-8630. He would love to hear from you!