Mar Vista Dentist: Where does the story of the tooth fairy come from?

Q: Where does the story of the tooth fairy come from?

A: While the modern story of the tooth fairy is less than a century old, it developed from much older myths.

In some European countries it was once thought that witches used lost teeth for curses, so parents took their children’s lost teeth very seriously. They buried baby teeth in the ground, hid them, threw them into the fire or tossed them into the sky. Sometimes they even swallowed them!

In some countries people once believed that if an animal ate a child’s tooth, the child would grow a new tooth that looked like the animal’s. Since mice have strong, sharp teeth that never stop growing, many parents hoped that their child’s lost tooth would be eaten by a mouse. (Perhaps this is why various cultures around the world have depicted the tooth fairy as a mouse.)

In the 1920s Esther Watkins Arnold wrote The Tooth Fairy, a popular children’s play. It helped define the story of the tooth fairy in the US, and by the 1950s the character was well-established. These days everybody knows the story of the tooth fairy… Although strangely enough, even after all this time nobody knows what she does with all of those teeth!

Dr. Natalie Khadavi sees patients in the Los Angeles area. Visit our website or give us a call at (310) 482-3971 for more information about how we can provide you and your family with healthy smiles that last a lifetime.

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