The Tooth fairy disguises its magic in a (usually blue) scrub and dental mask – not quite the fairy tale description we give our children.
If you have ever been unfortunate to experience chronic tooth pain, you will relate to the abundance of gratitude you have for your dentist when they fix your teeth and take away that pain, thereby becoming the real tooth fairies. At The Mall, we have tooth fairies.
In a daze of sheer agony, the moment your dentist takes away the pain you can almost see their fairy wings like a halo of light behind them – or it’s just the clinical light and generic dental interior you are sick of seeing.
At home, parents use the Tooth Fairy to their advantage. ‘’Brush your teeth or the tooth fairy will be very cross’’. Offering money for well-maintained teeth can seriously help children create healthy dental habits, possibly saving them from future dental problems.
But where did this myth of a magical tooth fairy come from?
It goes back to Northern Europe, and the tradition of the tand-fe or tooth fee for a child’s first tooth. The children would place the removed tooth in their shoes overnight and in the morning, the child would wake up to find a little mouse (le petit souris) had taken their tooth and left a coin.
Over the years, that tradition has changed somewhat across the world and we now envision the tooth fairy as a magical creature with wings that can fly into your child’s room and exchange their fallen teeth for money. The tooth fairy is becoming more generous with age and gives an average of £5 per tooth worldwide.
We know the real magic is the struggle of the exchange successfully taking place without waking the child, which could possibly destroy all future tooth fairy negotiations.
The famous three steps are;
- Tip toe into the room, lifting the weight of the sleeping child’s head from the pillow.
- While elevating the child’s head, carefully lift the pillow with the other hand, scooping the tooth from under and placing the money down.
- Carefully lower the head and tip toe back out of the room.
(P.S Don’t drop the tooth and make sure to hide it in a weird little jar).
So why do we keep weird little jars of baby teeth?
In most cases, parents have kept their child’s baby teeth for sentimental reasons, often forgetting the collection and finding it when their children have grown and left home.
Now, scientists are urging parents to keep their children’s baby teeth for health reasons. The abundance of stem cells present in their teeth could save their lives in the future, should they need it. The cells can be stored and remain viable for 22 years or even longer. To preserve the teeth, make sure to dry them out properly and clean with rubbing alcohol to then store in a tight container.
Throughout history, our children’s lost baby teeth have been valued greatly. Every recorded human culture has some kind of tradition surrounding them. Vikings were said to carry their children’s teeth around for good luck charms in battle.
A researcher, B. R Townend, categorized these rituals into nine basic forms.
(1) the tooth was thrown into the sun; (2) thrown into the fire; (3) thrown between the legs; (4) thrown onto or over the roof of the house, often with an invocation to some animal or individual; (5) placed in a mouse hole near the stove or hearth or offered to some other animal; (6) buried; (7) hidden where animals could not get it; (8) placed in a tree or on a wall; and (9) swallowed by the mother, child or animal.
The most widely practiced ritual, one that has been documented everywhere from Russia to New Zealand to Mexico, involves offering the lost baby tooth as a sacrifice to a mouse or rat, in the hopes that the child’s adult teeth will grow in as strong and sturdy as rodent’s teeth do – a wish for transference that anthropologists call “sympathetic magic.” This offering is often accompanied by a specific prayer or song, and, in a pinch, any strong-toothed animal will do. Leo Kanner’s “Folklore of the Teeth,” from 1928, records similar ceremonies involving cats, dogs, squirrels and beavers.
The mouse remains the dominant animal mascot for service today around many countries in the world.
It seems tooth fairies in whatever form are a much needed comfort during a scary ordeal for our children. The idea of a tooth fairy isn’t just a silly fairy tale we use to bribe our children. The tooth fairy serves a great purpose for us all.