Dental News - National Tooth Fairy Day recalls old beliefs and traditions

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National Tooth Fairy Day recalls old beliefs and traditions

Children’s lost teeth just might be collected on National Tooth Fairy Day, celebrated on August 22. (Photograph: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock; Tom Carvalho)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Tue. 22. August 2017


CHICAGO, Ill., USA: The folklore of the tooth fairy is widely known and practiced in various countries in the English-speaking world. It states that, when a child loses a baby tooth and puts it under the pillow, the tooth fairy will replace it with a small gift during the night. This tradition is celebrated on August 22 in the form of National Tooth Fairy Day. How did the myth of the tooth fairy actually come into being?

Like any other myth, the story of the tooth fairy evolved over time. Its origins go back as far as the 13th century, when Medieval Icelandic literary works first mentioned a “tooth fee” that was paid when a child lost its first tooth. In other northern European countries, like Medieval England, it was believed that children had to burn their primary teeth to save themselves from hardship in the afterlife. The Vikings, however, associated children’s teeth with good luck in battle.

In Europe, there is also the more general tradition of the good fairy born from popular literature and fairy tales in more recent times. However, the most popular version of a tooth deity is the figure of a mouse, who would enter children’s rooms and retrieve their lost baby teeth. This tradition is prominent in Russia, Spain and many Asian countries.

Of course, it is no longer common in the Western world to burn teeth or wear them around the neck as a lucky charm. Instead, parents usually put a small gift or money under their children’s pillows. These days, the tooth fairy “rewards” vary according to the family’s economic status and country. In a survey conducted by Visa in 2013, it was found that children in the US received an average of $3.70 per lost tooth. The report also mentioned that one of the reasons behind the trend is peer group pressure: Parents do not want their kids to be the ones at the playground who received the lowest amount.

However, there is more to the tooth fairy than just the financial aspect or the myth itself. Primary teeth are the foundation for a healthy dentition and teach a child to practice oral hygiene from an early age onwards. The American Dental Association has a number of activities listed on its website to help make National Tooth Fairy Day special for children and to engage them in fun activities surrounding oral health, like a brushing calendar to keep track of which teeth they have lost.

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