History of the Tooth Fairy

young girl who just lost a tooth

Losing teeth is a normal part of growing from a child into a teenager. In early Norse and European history, when a child lost a tooth, it was buried to spare the child from hardship in the next life. Now, traditions and stories are celebrated all across the globe about the tooth fairy and what happens when a child loses a tooth. However, the tooth fairy got a specific start in the United States that was fairly recent. Find out how the tooth fairy came to be for American children and why losing teeth is an exciting time for children!


Getting the Baby Teeth

Did you know that babies aren’t born with teeth already in their mouth? Some people know this, but others don’t unless they have had a child or sibling. Your teeth develop while you are still growing in the womb. However, they stay below your gum line and will come into your mouth at varying times. When infants get their baby teeth is based on their genetics. The majority of babies start to get their teeth between 4 and 9 months. However, many babies make it to one year and don’t have a tooth at all. However, by age 3, children should have all of their baby teeth.


Children will only have 20 teeth compared to an adult’s 32 teeth. This is because children are still small, and like their body, their mouth and jaws are still developing. They only have room for a certain amount of teeth. Children will have the bottom 2 from teeth pop through the gums first, followed by the upper two front teeth. This pattern will continue until children have 10 teeth in their top jaw and 10 teeth in the bottom jaw. However, eventually a child will start to grow into a teenager, so their mouth will change. This is when losing teeth starts to happen.


picture of a tooth and a toothbrush

Losing Teeth: Why Does It Happen?

Losing teeth is a part of life, but an exciting one for a child. It means that they are going to lose their small baby teeth so that adult, larger teeth can come in. This process isn’t generally painful. A tooth will start to become loose and will either fall out on its own, or it can be gently pulled when it moves enough. This is when the adult tooth is getting close to pushing another tooth out of the gums. Most children learn about the tooth fairy when they start to get between ages 5 and 8, where losing baby teeth starts to happen.


The Tooth Fairy

In the United States, children leave their lost tooth under a pillow for the tooth fairy to take. In its place is left a monetary reward or a similar gift, depending on the culture. Did you know that most cultures have some sort of tradition for when children lose their teeth? These traditions have been around for quite some time as well. Many of them follow the same story as the tooth fairy’s beginning in the United States. However, the tooth fairy in the U.S. is a bit unique, as it’s a creation of those stories that have been passed down, mixed with some Disney magic.


The tooth fairy is a fairly modern creation, as it’s only been around the last century or so, and has become what we know it to be since around 1927. It is a mix of many different cultures, folk tales, and legends. The most popular legend involves a story of a fairy who turns into a mouse. That mouse hides underneath the pillow of a king and eventually knocks some of his teeth out. From this one tale, we get the concept of something under a pillow, a fairy, and teeth coming out. It’s small details like these from fairy tales and stories that made up the tooth fairy as we know today. Some cultures had dark stories about magical fairies and teeth. However, magical fairies in many Disney movies in the 20th century made the tooth fairy something special and nice.


The Smithsonian reports that the tooth fairy gained popularity in the United States around the same time that many Disney films came out such as Cinderella and Pinocchio. Films such as these featured “a benevolent, maternal fairy with the power to make wishes come true.” Pop culture brought the tooth fairy to life in the United States that reflected the fairies in so many Disney films of the early 20th century. So, for American children, the tooth fairy is something nice and something to look forward to.


money and a tooth under a pillow

Keeping Teeth Healthy

Even though losing teeth and having the tooth fairy visit is an exciting time for children, you never want to be losing teeth as an adult. You shed all your baby teeth so that you have a strong set of adult teeth that stay with you throughout life. Sometimes old age and how well you take care of your teeth can cause you to lose them eventually, but this doesn’t happen to everyone. In fact, you don’t have to lose all your natural teeth even if you are 100 years old! The key is taking care of your oral health. That is why dentists exist!


Dentists go to 10 years of school to learn how to take care of your teeth. If you brush and floss your teeth daily, several times a day and visit a dentist often, you can keep your adult teeth healthy. The American Dental Association recommends that every patient see the dentist at least twice a year. That includes infants that already have their baby teeth. If you have questions about your child’s teeth (especially if they are starting to lose them), call our office anytime. To schedule you or your child’s dental checkup, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at 9970) 223-8425!