Today, dentists use the Tooth Fairy to encourage good dental health and hygiene practices, and they even encourage parents to propagate the legend through the idea that a tooth that is cleaner commands a larger price from the Tooth Fairy. This encouragement and the concept of the Tooth Fairy make dental work on children much easier for dentists.
Traditions suggest that when a child lost a baby tooth, it was buried to spare the child the hardships in the next life. In Europe, for a child’s first tooth the tradition of the ‘tand-fe’ or ‘tooth fee’ occurred. It included Vikings using the children’s teeth and other items from their offspring to bring them good luck in a battle. However, the more general tradition was born out of fairytales and popular literature. The most popular was the story of a ‘tooth deity’, which was a mouse that would enter children’s rooms and remove baby teeth that had fallen out. This was a folklore that was prominent in Russia, Spain and many Asian countries. Yet the Tooth Fairy as we know her today was popularised as a good fairy myth in 1927 when a book contained an illustration of what we now know as the modern Tooth Fairy. The legend had been obscure for quite some time; however, with the popularity of Walt Disney’s fairy characters, the Tooth Fairy gained momentum and quickly became a presence in most households.
While Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have been adopted and grossly over-used in promotions by Coca-Cola and Cadbury, which in turn gave them a strong identity, the Tooth Fairy seems up for grabs. Quick sticks, dentists, catch her while you can!