Tooth Fairy FAQ
Born in the USA
Age: about 88
Average payout per tooth: approximately two dollars
Typically thought of as female in recently years but has been depected as male in the past, and in some cultures as a bear, mouse, or dragon.
History of the Tooth Fairy
Warner Family Dentitry, Richard Warner, D.D.S., Council Bluffs, IA
Long before the Tooth Fairy came on the job a lot of thought was given to baby teeth.
In early times the belief was that if a witch could obtain a part of someone's body they could gain control over them. This made disposal of baby teeth, or any other body part, a serious matter. The teeth were typically thrown into a fire as quickly as possible.
As time went on the fear subsided and a variety of customs emerged. In some parts of the world parents would plant the baby tooth in the garden, the superstitious belief being this would encourage growth of the adult teeth. The mighty Viking warriors made necklaces out of baby teeth believing this would bring them luck in battle.
The tradition of providing cash for teeth originated in Europe. There were some variations; initially a reward was left only after the sixth tooth. In some regions the tooth was left behind, in others it was taken. How the concept of leaving a gift emerged isn't clear. It may have been an effort to allay fears over loss of a tooth, or comfort after for pain that might have occurred during the process.
Though to most people an image of a white-winged female comes to mind, illustrations of the Tooth Fairy over the years varies markedly raise. The "molar marauder" has appeared at time as male or an animal, including a bear, mouse, bat, and even a dragon. In some Hispanic cultures the custom is almost identical but instead of a tooth fairy a tooth mouse claims the teeth and leaves the gift.
The tooth fairy in her present common form only came into being in the 20th century. A three act play for children called "The Tooth Fairy" came out in 1927; the first known written work to use that title was printed in 1947.
The legend spread during the 1950's becoming as commonplace as the Easter Bunny in the United States. Coincident with this was an increase in commercialization, with tooth fairy banks, pillows, and so forth appearing in the marketplace. A factor in the widespread acceptance of the tooth fairy in this country is the lack of a tie to any specific religion; it is fantasy that can be enjoyed by all.
When compared to the consumer price index the tooth fairy has done a reasonably good job of keeping up with inflation. The average fee per tooth has risen from a nickel or dime in the 1950's to two dollars today.
Despite all the fuss, belief in the tooth fairy is short-lived. The first tooth isn't lost until age five or six, and children tend to become skeptics in mythical gift givers around age seven or eight. The belief shift isn't always obvious as parents tend to keep the tradition going until the last tooth is lost and children learn to keep their true feelings mum when there is money at stake.