Since today is National Tooth Fairy Day, (although it’s also observed on February 28) we thought you might be curious about the origins of this tradition. 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.
This tradition migrated to the US and early settlers placed children’s teeth in flowerpots or planters since the same fears and superstitions about fallen baby teeth traveled over to this country as well.
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.
Then there is the story of the “tooth mouse.” A tradition that was widely popular, and said to have been based on the French fairytale, La Bonne Petit Souris. This fairytale told the story of a fairy that morphed into a mouse, hid under the evil king’s pillow one night just to knock all of his teeth out as he slept to save the good queen.
This leads us to the modernized version: The Tooth Fairy. Although this tradition is widely practiced today, it took some time to catch on. It wasn’t until the 1949 children’s story, The Tooth Fairy by Lee Rogow, that parents really started telling the story.
Incidentally, esteemed Tooth Fairy researcher, Rosemary Wells, tracked the exchange rate of the tooth from 1900 – 1980 and claimed that the price of the tooth jumped from a dime to two dollars during that time.