North Americans have long held to the tradition of the Tooth Fairy, a benevolent pixie who rewards young children for recently lost teeth in the form of cash or some small token or treat. Classic children’s author Pauline Bourgeois (the Franklin Series) even writes an entire book about Franklin (a turtle who actually has no teeth) and his attempt to trick his parents into providing a monetary reward for his lost “tooth.” But where does the Tooth Fairy come from and how important is he/she in the lexicon of the North American tradition?
You may not like the answer! Unlike other folk tales with historical significance or pop culture popularity (think Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny) the Tooth Fairy appears to be a completely North American manufacture, developed in and around the 1920’s, and one which puts a significantly softer spin on the history of lost teeth. Even a cursory glance at the myriad myths and legends shows several common themes, many of which revolved around the rituals of burying teeth for protection or to avoid a witch’s curse! The Tooth Fairy is a much prettier idea than that of a mouse in the house intent on stealing teeth or the thought of parents purposely placing a tooth near a mouse hole the better to ensure their youngsters teeth grew strong like a rodents – Yuck! The Brinkley Team universally agree – give us a little Tinkerbell type fairy with wings stealing into the room at night any day over encouraging a mouse in the house! Even welcoming “The Rock” as the tooth fairy sounds better than burying a tooth in the backyard or wearing them (as Norse legend has it) on a string around the neck for protection!
Losing a tooth is considered just one of the many steps along the way to adulthood. A rite of passage. Rosemary Wells, commonly referred to as the expert on the origins of the tooth fairy, suggests the North American tradition arose out of a need to blend and soften the older, more caustic, folklore with that of the still critical need by parents to somehow mark this important transition period in the life of their child. The argument for providing treats or monetary rewards is a nod to giving a child increasing responsibility, in this case by both “earning” and “managing” money. Why the Tooth Fairy is a woman is because overwhelmingly, that is how she is perceived by children (some 74% of those surveyed.) Modern literature tends to depict her thus, and often with wings, a wand or pixie dust forming an integral part of the profile. The “bait and switch” of money for teeth takes place underneath the pillow and this has to be, we believe here at Brinkley, infinitely preferable to burying a tooth in dirt or placing it near a mouse hole to attract rodents! If you’re worried about a loose tooth coming out while you visit our office, remember, the Brinkley Team is dedicated to gentle tooth care and works in conjunction with the Tooth Fairy. She’s a member of our team and we’ll be sure to send the errant tooth home with you and let the Tooth Fairy know it’s time to pay your house a visit!
By the way, if you thought the price for this dental bounty was increasing – you’re right. According to VISA, the Tooth Fairy is now leaving an average of $3.70 US per tooth, up 23% from last year and a whopping 42% overall increase since 2011! Seems while the “magic” behind the tooth fairy got prettier, it also got a whole lot more expensive!