When you lost your baby teeth as a child, it’s likely that you saved the relinquished molar or incisor, placing it carefully beneath your pillow before going to sleep that night. That’s because when you woke up the next morning, you’d find a shiny new quarter, or even a dollar or two, depending how deep your tooth fairy’s pockets were.
Of course, there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy — she was an invention of your parents, used to add some excitement to an otherwise strange and even scary dental experience that all children go through. But how much do you know about the tooth fairy myth’s origins?
The Tooth Fairy Has a Long History
Your parents didn’t really invent the tooth fairy, and neither did their parents. But the myth goes back way further than most people think. In fact, the origins of the tooth fairy can be traced back to the Eddas, a pair of Icelandic writings that date back to the thirteenth century, but cite material that goes back to the times of the Vikings.
In the Eddas, there is a description of the tand-fé, which translates to “tooth fee.” This was a payment made to a child when they lost their first tooth. In fact, there is a legend that Vikings valued children’s teeth highly, even purchasing them from children in order to wear them on necklaces when they went into battle as good luck charms.
There was plenty of superstition surrounding children’s teeth in other areas of the world, leading to all kinds of strange practices and rituals featuring lost baby teeth. In England during the Middle Ages, some families would burn baby teeth in an attempt to improve the child’s eventual experience in the afterlife. There was also a belief during medieval times, when fear of witches was rampant, that a witch would gain total power over you if she obtained one of your teeth.
The Modern Tooth Fairy
Of course, the tooth fairy myth today has evolved, and is now a fun, harmless tradition that is completely divorced from its superstitious roots. Some kids receive money for their teeth, while others may receive small toys or gifts. While a dime or a quarter used to be the going rate for a fresh baby tooth, a study by Visa in 2013 showed that the average American receives $3.70 for a single tooth — talk about inflation!
While the tooth fairy doesn’t have much deep meaning these days, it’s still a ritual that is strongly tied to coming of age — not just the loss of the teeth themselves, but also the belief in the fantastical figure. Believe in the tooth fairy for too long and you may garner mockery from friends and peers, but ruin the myth for others and you could suffer the wrath of parents and teachers for being a killjoy!
The tooth fairy may be a fun myth, but unfortunately she can’t do anything for your oral health. Call (407) 834-6446 or contact us online to make an appointment with Orlando area dentist Dr. Michael L. Weinstock and experience the real tooth magic: Top quality dental care!