The Tooth Fairy: Everything You Need To Know

Published : May 28, 2024
By Dr. Ana Aznar

Tradition says that when children lose a baby tooth, they must place it underneath their pillow at bedtime. During the night, the Tooth Fairy will make an appearance, taking the tooth and replacing it with a small amount of money (1). 

Where does this tradition come from? 

It seems that the tooth fairy tradition originated in the 10th century amongst the Norse people in Northern Europe. Parents going on expeditions or war used to take their kids’ baby teeth for protection and blessing. 

Should you encourage your child to believe in the Tooth Fairy? 

Over the past few years, some practitioners and academics have raised concern about the fact that encouraging your child to believe in fantasy characters like Santa or the Tooth Fairy may bring mistrust to the parent- child relationship. However, there is no evidence (2) to support this claim. 

Magical thinking is part of children’s development, especially between the ages of 3 and 8. During this period, many children have an imaginary friend and believe in monsters, unicorns and flying carpets. Children use magic to explain events that they may not understand, and many believe that simply wishing may cause supernatural events to happen. They believe in the existence of popular fantasy figures like the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Blurring the lines between reality (3) and fantasy is part of childhood.  

It is not only that children believe in these magical things and events, but our culture encourages their fantastic thinking. Parents encourage their children’s beliefs when they leave carrots for Santa’s reindeers, make a wish when blowing birthday candles, or leave a light on to scare monsters away.  

Is it good or bad for my child to believe in the Tooth Fairy? 

It is neither good nor bad. If it is a tradition that you and your family enjoy, go for it! 

Some parents use the Tooth Fairy to promote dental hygiene. They tell their children that the cleaner and healthier the tooth, the more money they will receive. Or that if the tooth is not clean and healthy, the Tooth Fairy may not come.  

Other parents use the tale of the Tooth Fairy to help their child understand physical changes and overcome the fear of losing a tooth.  

When and how do children discover the truth? 

Children usually discover the truth between the ages of 7 or 8. It’s around this time that they will also realize the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny.  

There is not much research examining children’s beliefs around the Tooth Fairy, but we can rely on the research on Santa (4). This research tells us that children usually learn the truth on their own, from their parents, or from a combination of both. Children usually suspect the truth before they start to ask questions about it. So, if your child starts asking about the Tooth Fairy, find out what they know exactly, before telling them the truth straight away.  

How much does the Tooth Fairy pay? 

Children get different amounts depending on the country they live in, their family’s socio-economic status, and how much money their friends receive. The Tooth Fairy tends to be more generous (5) with the first tooth than with any future teeth.  

The amount that children get has increased over the years, in line with inflation. However, it seems that the Tooth Fairy also feels our pain (6) and she paid less per teeth in 2023 than in 2018. In 2024 American (7) children are receiving $5.84 per milk tooth. In 2023, children in the UK (8) received £1.80 per milk tooth. The Tooth Fairy is clearly on top of things, as she knows that life in London is more expensive, and so is a bit more generous with London children, giving them £2.30 per tooth.  

Considering that children have 20 baby teeth, you can calculate how much it is going to cost you depending on where you live!  

What if the Tooth Fairy forgets to pay a visit? 

If this has happened to you, don’t feel bad, you are not alone! According to a recent survey (9), this has happened to more than 56% of parents in the US. 

What to do? Blame your child: “I don’t think you’ve looked hard enough” while at the same time, throwing some coins under the bed, in the pillowcase, or wherever you manage! 

Does the Tooth Fairy exist in all cultures? 

In Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, instead of the Tooth Fairy, they have a mouse called Perez (el Ratoncito Pérez). The Perez Mouse first appeared in Spain in 1894 in a tale written for King Alfonso XIII (10), when he lost a milk tooth at the age of eight. His mother, Queen María Cristina commissioned this tale to help him endure losing his first tooth.  

The idea of the mouse is quite popular. In Italy, they also have a mouse called Toppolino whereas in France, the mouse is called La Petite Souris.   

In some Asian countries, the tradition involves children throwing the tooth into the air. In Japan, they throw the upper teeth down to the ground and the lower tooth up into the air. The idea is that the new teeth will grow straight.  

In Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Sudan, the tradition is to throw the baby tooth up unto the sky to Allah or the sun. It is thought that this tradition (11) dates back to the 13th century.  

Five Fun Facts About the Tooth Fairy 

  1. It is estimated that she collects around 300,000 teeth every night.  
  1. Most people (75%) believe that the Tooth Fairy is a female, while the rest believe is a male or an animal. 
  1. In the US Tooth Fairy Day is celebrated twice every year, on the 28th February and the 22nd August. This is because the American Dental Association recommends that people get their teeth cleaned every six months.  
  1. The Tooth Fairy has her own movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  
  1. There are a few Tooth Fairy apps. One allows your child can now make unlimited phone calls to the Tooth Fairy. Another one helps you to show proof that the Tooth Fairy was really in your child’s bedroom.  

Much love,

Ana

Dr Ana Aznar

References

  1. Toumba, K.J. The legend of the “tooth fairy”. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent 14, 277–278 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40368-013-0093-9 
  1. Mills, C. M., Goldstein, T. R., Kanumuru, P., Monroe, A. J., & Quintero, N. B. (2024). Debunking the Santa myth: The process and aftermath of becoming skeptical about Santa.Developmental Psychology, 60(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001662 
  1. Principe, G. F., & Smith, E. (2008). The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth: How belief in the tooth fairy can engender false memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology: The Official Journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 22(5), 625-642. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1402 
  1. Goldstein, T. R., & Woolley, J. (2016). Ho! Ho! Who? Parent promotion of belief in and live encounters with Santa Claus. Cognitive Development, 39, 113-127 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2016.04.002 
  1. https://www.deltadental.com/us/en/tooth-fairy/press-release.html#2023 
  1. Krebs A, Thomas RM. Tooth Fairy keeping up with inflation. New York Times, 23 June 1981. http://www.nytimes.com/1981/06/23/nyregion/notes-on-people-tooth-fairy- keeping-up-with-inflation.html 
  1. Visa Inc. Survey: tooth fairy fluttering down to earth. Tooth Fairy leaving $3.19, down 24 cents per tooth [webpage]. Visa. July 2015. http://investor.visa.com/news/news-details/2015/Visa- Inc-Survey-Tooth-Fairy-Fluttering-Down-To-Earth/default.aspx 
  1. https://www.bupa.co.uk/dental/dental-care/news/how-much-does-the-tooth-fairy-pay-2023 
  1. https://www.deltadental.com/us/en/tooth-fairy/press-release.html#2023 
  1. Sadurní, J. M. (7 May 2019). “Luis Coloma and Ratoncito Pérez, the tale that born as a gift for a Queen”. National Geographic 
  1.  Al Hamdani, Muwaffak; Wenzel, Marian (1966). “The Worm in the Tooth”. Folklore. 77 (1): 60–64. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1966.9717030. JSTOR 1258921
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Dr. Ana Aznar
2024-05-17 09:55:58
Hi Donna,
sO great to have you here! Totally agree that Zara is great! What other topics would you like us to discuss?
Ana
Donna
2024-05-17 09:49:36
Love Zara’s ways of teaching for both parents & kids! Also so helpful. We want more!! (Please!) :D
Ana Aznar
2024-05-08 07:24:31
We are glad you found the content useful! Many thanks for being here.
Ana
https://WWW.Waste-Ndc.pro/community/profile/tressa79906983/
2024-05-04 14:40:38
I couldn't resist commenting. Very well written! https://WWW.Waste-Ndc.pro/community/profile/tressa79906983/
Cristoj
2024-04-09 18:20:19
Great article!!!

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