Lost baby tooth? Check.
Tooth placed safely under the pillow? Check.
Trouble falling asleep from total excitement? Definite check.
Like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and other the magical figures that filled your childhood with excitement and joy, the Tooth Fairy was one that made losing teeth a little less scary and a lot more worthwhile. In exchange for a baby tooth tucked under a pillow, as a child you would wake up in the morning to a small gift or money from the Tooth Fairy, and your tooth would be gone!
Did other children experience the tooth fairy the same way you did? Do different cultures have a Tooth Fairy or similar myth? Where did the Tooth Fairy myth even come from? We don’t consider these questions often until we have kids of our own with their gap-filled grins, but the answers are super interesting and may just surprise you! If anything, it’s certainly fun to reminisce on our own Tooth Fairy memories and think about the lengths (or lack thereof) our parents went to in order to create a Tooth Fairy visit.
Where does the Tooth Fairy tradition come from?
The Tooth Fairy is a mythical figure from Western folklore. The myth states that when children lose a baby tooth, they should place it under their pillow, and as they sleep, the Tooth Fairy will visit and exchange the tooth with a payment or small gift. The earliest tradition of this myth was in Northern Europe by the Old Norse, who rewarded their children’s first lost tooth.
Children’s teeth weren’t consistently celebrated or rewarded throughout Western history. In the Middle Ages, teeth were burned to save the child from hardship in the afterlife, so they weren’t searching for them after death. Some believed that witches could control someone by possessing their teeth, so children had to burn their teeth.
The Western tradition of the Tooth Fairy as we know it today dates back to the early 20th century. If you recall what you received as a kid for a lost tooth, you also know that baby teeth are just as subject to inflation as anything else.
“Mom! Dad! The Tooth Fairy left me a dollar!”
The average payout for a tooth ranges from one to five dollars, with three percent of kids receiving less than one dollar and only eight percent receiving more than five dollars. Many parents warn against providing more extravagant payouts, as it might cause problems between your child’s friends and their parents. We all know kids are proud to share and compare what they received from the Tooth Fairy, and a fun tradition shouldn’t cause any grievances between adults or hurt feelings from kids that their baby teeth aren’t good enough to get more money/gifts.
Why do we believe in the Tooth Fairy?
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced the horrified look on your child’s face when they either get their first tooth or see other children at school begin to lose their teeth. They’re terrified it’s going to hurt and that their teeth will never come back and all the teeth in their head are just one day going to fall out. Sometimes assuring them that it actually won’t hurt and that actually, new, adult teeth will come in just isn’t enough. Instead, we find that using the Tooth Fairy, who is magical, fun, and rewarding, is a great way to alleviate the fear of losing baby teeth and growing older.
“The Tooth Fairy didn’t leave me ANYTHING!” – Oops!
It happens to the best of parents! You might forget about the new lost tooth entirely or you might get caught in the act of putting the tooth under the pillow—either way, there are a couple tricks around your slip-ups. In case you forgot about the tooth, here are some ways out:
- “The tooth fairy must have been super busy last night! Let’s try again tonight.”
- “Are you sure you had your tooth under your pillow? Let’s place it there together again and see what happens tonight.”
- “She must have gotten lost on her way! Do you want to leave a nightlight on tonight to make sure she finds your tooth?”
- “I heard that she ran out of fairy dust last night and couldn’t fly. She’ll definitely be here tonight since you were her next stop!”
- “I thought I saw her in the kitchen last night! I bet she was confused—let’s make her a sign that leads to your room.”
- “You woke up at 6:00am and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come until later in the morning. It’s still dark out. You should go back to bed, because she can’t come in if you’re awake.”
- “I found a thermometer out this morning—I bet she was feeling sick and had to go home for the night since she wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to spread any germs to you.”
- “The tooth fairy came! You didn’t look hard enough!” This is when you slip the money beside or behind the bed, and claim the money must’ve gotten lost in the bed while they were sleeping. Just pretend to help them look and slip the money somewhere on or around the bed!
If the child wakes up while you’re putting the tooth under the pillow, here are some things you can say:
- “I was checking to see if the Tooth Fairy came! It’s pretty late and I wanted to make sure she didn’t miss you.”
- “The Tooth Fairy texted me and wanted me to make sure that y
- “The Tooth Fairy was in a huge hurry tonight! Santa Claus hurt his tooth and she had to go help him out. She gave me your gift and wanted me to leave the tooth in the kitchen tonight for her to come back and get in the morning. Is that okay?”
- “I saw the Tooth Fairy come to your door and fly away. I think we should move the tooth to the living room.”
- One particularly funny claim parents have told their kids is the Tooth Fairy can disguise herself to look like one of their parents. This way, if the kid wakes up, they won’t be disappointed to see their mom or dad instead of a tiny, winged creature. The catch is that even if the kid wakes up, they should pretend to be asleep so that they get their reward!
What age does the Tooth Fairy stop visiting?
This varies for many children. Children typically stop losing teeth around age 12, but tend to stop leaving teeth for the Tooth Fairy long before then. It is pretty normal for a child to stop believing in the Tooth Fairy around the same time that they stop believing in Santa Claus. For many children, this occurs around ages 7-9, which according to child psychologists is the same time that children begin to distinguish fantasy from reality.
However, depending on the dedication of the parents and the imagination of the child, the tradition can continue for a long time. Most child psychologists agree that believing in the Tooth Fairy doesn’t cause any negative affects on the child, but generally recommend keeping it going as long as it’s fun, age-appropriate, and it doesn’t involve lying to the child when they ask for the truth.
Also, just because the child stops believing in the Tooth Fairy doesn’t mean that the parents have to stop the tradition. Even as kids get a little older, they still appreciate their parents keeping track of their progress towards an adult smile with small rewards along the way!
Why do we love the Tooth Fairy?
You can make the Tooth Fairy a way for kids to care about their teeth and the health of their teeth. One of our favorite tips to encourage good brushing and flossing is to tell kids that the Tooth Fairy loves healthy teeth. You can exchange better incentives for healthy teeth or have the Tooth Fairy leave a note praising good dental habits.
Losing teeth shouldn’t be scary for children, and the Tooth Fairy is a pretty easy and fun way for parents to celebrate their kid’s loss of baby teeth. Here at South Charlotte Dentistry, we also want to make the dental journey for your kids fun, positive, and healthy. While a visit from the dentist might not be as exciting as the Tooth Fairy, South Charlotte Dentistry has a wonderful staff that loves to work with kids and will have your children leaving the office with a smile. We’re here to help you stay on track with your child’s dental health; just give us a call today at (704) 759-0908 to schedule your child’s next appointment!