Tooth fairy

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A woman dressed as a fairy surrounded by children
A woman dressed as the Tooth Fairy during Halloween

The Tooth Fairy is a fantasy figure of early childhood in Western and Western-influenced cultures.[1] The folklore states that when children lose one of their baby teeth, they should place it underneath their pillow or on their bedside table; the Tooth Fairy will visit while they sleep, replacing the lost tooth with a small payment.[2]


During the Middle Ages, other superstitions arose surrounding children's teeth. Children in England were instructed to burn their baby teeth, on pain of spending eternity searching for the baby teeth in the afterlife. Fear of witches was another reason to bury or burn teeth. In medieval Europe, it was thought that a witch could assume total power over someone if they were to obtain one of their teeth.[3]

Another modern incarnation of these traditions into an actual Tooth Fairy has been traced to a 1908 "Household Hints" item in the Chicago Daily Tribune:

Tooth Fairy. Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the Tooth Fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the Tooth Fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5-cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions.[4]

— Lillian Brown, Tooth Fairy, Chicago Daily Tribune


Unlike Father Christmas and, to a lesser extent, the Easter Bunny, there are few details of the Tooth Fairy's appearance that are consistent in various versions of the myth. A 1984 study conducted by Rosemary Wells revealed that most, 74 percent of those surveyed, believed the Tooth Fairy to be female, while 12 percent believed the Tooth Fairy to be neither male nor female, and 8 percent believed the Tooth Fairy could be either male or female.[5] When asked about her findings regarding the Tooth Fairy's appearance, Wells explained: "You've got your basic Tinkerbell-type Tooth Fairy with the wings, wand, a little older and whatnot. Then you have some people who think of the tooth fairy as a man, a bunny rabbit, or a mouse."[6] One review of published children's books and popular artwork found the Tooth Fairy to be depicted in many different forms, including as a child with wings, a pixie, a dragon, a blue mother-figure, a flying ballerina, two little older men, a dental hygienist, occasionally a female dentist, a potbellied flying man smoking a cigar, a bat, a bear, and others. Unlike the well-established imagining of Santa Claus, differences in renderings of the Tooth Fairy are not as upsetting to children.[7]

Depiction on coins and currency[edit]

Starting in 2011, the Royal Canadian Mint began selling special sets for newborn babies, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, "Oh Canada", and the Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy quarters, which were issued only in 2011 and 2012, were packaged separately.[8]

In 2020, the Royal Australian Mint began issuing "Tooth Fairy kits" that included commemorative $2 coins.[9]


The reward left varies by country, the family's economic status, amounts the child's peers report receiving, and other factors.[10][11] A 2013 survey by Visa Inc. found that American children receive $3.70 per tooth on average.[12][13] According to the same survey, only 3% of children find a dollar or less and 8% find a five-dollar bill or more under their pillow.[14]

The reward is affected by inflation.[15] According to data gathered by the American dental insurance company Delta Dental, the average payout per tooth in the United States rose from $1.30 in 1998 to $6.23 in 2023.[15] According to Delta Dental, the payout's trends typically mirror macroeconomic conditions and the S&P 500 stock index.[15]

Delta Dental found that the first tooth lost gets a higher reward than other teeth on average in the United States.[15]


Belief in the Tooth Fairy is viewed in two very different ways. On the one hand, children's beliefs are seen as part of the trusting nature of childhood. Conversely, belief in the Tooth Fairy is frequently used to label adults as being too trusting and ready to believe anything.[7]

Parents tend to view the myth as providing comfort for children in losing a tooth.[7] Research finds that belief in the Tooth Fairy may comfort a child experiencing fear or pain from losing a tooth.[16] Mothers especially seem to value a child's belief as a sign that their "baby" is still a child and is not "growing up too soon".[7] By encouraging belief in a fictional character, parents allow themselves to be comforted that their child still believes in fantasy and is not yet "grown up".[16]

Children often discover the Tooth Fairy is imaginary as part of the age 5- to 7-year shift, often connecting this to other gift-bearing imaginary figures (such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny).[17]

Author Vicki Lansky advises parents to tell their children early that the tooth fairy pays much more for a perfect tooth than a decayed one. According to Lansky, some families leave a note with the payment, praising the child for good dental habits.[18]

Research findings suggest a possible relationship between a child's continued belief in the Tooth Fairy (and other fictional characters) and false memory syndrome.[19]

Related myths[edit]

El Ratón Pérez (Spain and Latin America)[edit]

In Spain and Hispanic America, El Ratoncito Pérez or Ratón Pérez (lit. transl. Perez the Little Mouse or Perez Mouse) is equivalent to the Tooth Fairy. He first appeared in an 1894 tale written by Luis Coloma for King Alfonso XIII, who had just lost a milk tooth at the age of eight.[20] As is traditional in other cultures, when a child loses a tooth it is customary for the child to place it under the pillow so that El Ratoncito Pérez will exchange it for a small payment or gift. The tradition is almost universal in Spanish cultures, with some slight differences.

He is generally known as "El Ratoncito Pérez",[21] except for some regions of Mexico, Peru, and Chile, where he is called "El Ratón de los Dientes" (transl. The Tooth Mouse), and in Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Colombia, where he is known simply as "El Ratón Pérez". He was used by Colgate marketing in Venezuela[22] and Spain.[citation needed]

Elsewhere in Europe[edit]

In Italy, the Tooth Fairy (Fatina dei denti) is also often replaced by a tiny mouse named Topolino. In some areas the same role is held by Saint Apollonia, known as Santa Polonia in Veneto.[23] (Saint Apollonia's legendary martyrdom involved having her teeth broken; she is frequently depicted artistically holding a tooth and is considered the patron saint of dentistry and those with toothache and dental problems.)

In France and French-speaking Belgium, this character is called La Petite Souris (The Little Mouse). From parts of Lowland Scotland comes a tradition similar to the fairy mouse: a white fairy rat who purchases children's teeth with coins.

In Catalonia, the most popular would be Els Angelets (little angels) and also "Les animetes" (little souls) and as in the other countries, the tooth is placed under the pillow in exchange of a coin or a little token.

In the Basque Country, and especially in Biscay, there is Mari Teilatukoa ("Mary from the roof"), who lives in the roof of the baserri and catches the teeth thrown by the children. In Cantabria, he is known as L’Esquilu de los dientis ("the tooth squirrel).[24]

Asia and Africa[edit]

In Japan, a different variation calls for lost upper teeth to be thrown straight down to the ground and lower teeth straight up into the air; the idea is that incoming teeth will grow in straight.[25]

In Korea, throwing both upper and lower teeth on the roof was common.[26] The practice is rooted around the Korean national bird, the magpie. It is said that if the magpie finds a tooth on the roof, it will bring good luck.[27] Some scholars think the myth derived from the word 까치(Ka-chi) which was a middle Korean word for magpies that sounds similar to "new teeth", or because of the significance of magpies in Korean mythology as a messenger between gods and humans.[citation needed]

In Middle Eastern countries (including Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Sudan), there is a tradition of throwing a baby tooth up into the sky to the sun or to Allah. This tradition may originate in a pre-Islamic offering dating back to the 13th century. It was also mentioned by Izz bin Hibat Allah Al Hadid in the 13th century.[28]

In Mali, children throw baby teeth into the chicken coop to receive a chicken the following day.[29]

In Afrikaans speaking families in South Africa, children leave their teeth in a shoe so that the Tandemuis (Tooth Mouse) can replace the teeth with money. [30]

In popular culture[edit]

Tales of the Tooth Fairies is a British children's television programme first aired in 1993.

In the 2010 film Tooth Fairy, Dwayne Johnson plays as the titular character. The 2012 sequel stars Larry the Cable Guy.

The 2003 horror film, Darkness Falls, features a vengeful spirit known as the "Tooth Fairy". A 2006 horror film, The Tooth Fairy, also features an evil Tooth Fairy.

A killer nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" (because of his habit of leaving bite marks on his victims) is featured in "Red Dragon", part of the Hannibal Lecter franchise by Thomas Harris. He appears in the 1981 novel and the 1986 and 2002 film adaptations.

William Joyce's book series The Guardians of Childhood features Toothiana, a half-human tooth fairy resembling a Kinnari operating out of South Asia. She and a vast legion of mini fairies (depicted in the books as being an ability to split herself into smaller copies, while the film has them as separate entities) collect children's teeth to safeguard the childhood memories held within, with the film also including a brief appearance by the Tooth Mouse. In its 2012 film adaptation Rise of the Guardians, she is voiced by Isla Fisher.

In episode 2 of The Irregulars, a 2021 series on Netflix, the tooth fairy myth is an integral part of the plot.

In The Legend of Toof, by P.S. Featherston, a story originally told in 2006 and published in 2021 by TF Press, we learn of the dangerous adventures of a small woodland sprite named Toof. Toof is the original tooth fairy born with the ability to know when a child has lost a tooth and how to find them. The story identifies why fairies need a child's tooth, how it keeps them safe from gremlins, and why children need to help them in this endeavor. In The Legend of Toof we meet all of the original Tooth Fairies, two human children that help him defeat the hidden world's most despicable villains: Colsore, Deekay, and Plaak, their army of Drolls, and the original Tooth Mouse of Spain, Ratoncito Pérez and learn his story. Because of Toof, we discover how fairies can fly at the speed of light, the importance of their friendship with children, where they get the unique coins they leave as gifts, and much more as it relates to Tooth Fairy lore.

Way back in 1927, a children’s playwright, Esther Watkins Arnold, brought to life an extraordinary, elf-like creature, in an 8-page playlet. She playfully christened it as the “Tooth fairy”, and this mythical creature had the power to fly around visiting young children, to collect their fallen (milk) teeth.[31]

In the video game Reverse: 1999, a playable character named Tooth Fairy serves as a dentist and medical doctor at the St. Pavlov Foundation. In addition to her medical knowledge and hobby of collecting various teeth, she carries literal glowing tooth fairies in a jar, and can heal other arcanists by feeding parts or all of a tooth fairy to them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blair, John R.; McKee, Judy S.; Jernigan, Louise F. (June 1980). "Children's belief in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy". Psychological Reports. 46 (3, Pt. 1): 691–694. doi:10.2466/pr0.1980.46.3.691. S2CID 146492076.
  2. ^ Watts, Linda S. (2007). "Tooth Fairy (legendary)". Encyclopedia of American Folklore. New York: Facts on File. p. 386. ISBN 978-0-8160-5699-6.
  3. ^ Underwood, Tanya (23 May 2008). "Legends of the Tooth Fairy". Recess. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  4. ^ Lillian Brown (27 September 1908). "Tooth Fairy". Chicago Daily Tribune. Archived from the original on 1 June 2016. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  5. ^ Brooker, Lynda (2 February 1984). "Tooth Fairy Lore Extracted". Toledo Blade.
  6. ^ "The tooth fairy: friend or foe?". The Milwaukee Journal. 31 July 1991.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b c d Wells, Rosemary (1997). "The Making of an Icon: The Tooth Fairy in North American Folklore and Popular Culture". In Narváez, Peter (ed.). The Good People: New Fairylore Essays. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 426–446. ISBN 9780813109398.
  8. ^ 2012 CANADA Tooth Fairy Gift Sett Special quarter reverse Mint sealed | eBay
  9. ^ "2021 Tooth Fairy Coin Set". 8 January 2021.
  10. ^ Patca, Raphael; van Waes, Hubertus J. M.; Daum, Moritz M.; Landolt, Markus A. (2017). "Tooth Fairy guilty of favouritism!". Medical Journal of Australia. 207 (11): 482–486. doi:10.5694/mja17.00860. PMID 29227774. S2CID 21234624.
  11. ^ Hedges, Helen; Cullen, Joy (2003). "The Tooth Fairy Comes, or Is It Just Your Mum and Dad?: A Child's Construction of Knowledge". Australian Journal of Early Childhood. 28 (3): 19–24. doi:10.1177/183693910302800304. S2CID 141300988.
  12. ^ "Tooth Fairy inflation flies high". CBS News. 30 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Survey: Tooth fairy leaving less money". UPI. 26 July 2011.
  14. ^ Woudstra, Wendy. "How Much Does The Tooth Fairy Pay for a Tooth". Colgate. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d Tyko, Kelly (27 February 2023). "Tooth Fairy's lost teeth payout reaches record high". Axios. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  16. ^ a b Clark, Cindy Dell (1995). "Flight Toward Maturity: The Tooth Fairy". Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith: Children's Myths in Contemporary America. University of Chicago Press. pp. 355–364. ISBN 9780226107776.
  17. ^ Sameroff, Arnold; McDonough, Susan C. (1994). "Educational implications of developmental transitions: revisiting the 5- to 7-year shift". Phi Delta Kappan. 76 (3): 188–193. JSTOR 20405294.
  18. ^ Lansky, Vicki (2001). Practical parenting tips. New Delhi: Unicorn books. p. 79. ISBN 81-7806-005-1.
  19. ^ Principe, Gabrielle F.; Smith, Eric (July 2008). "The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth: how belief in the Tooth Fairy can engender false memories". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 22 (5): 625–642. doi:10.1002/acp.1402.
  20. ^ Sadurní, J. M. (7 May 2019). "Luis Coloma and Ratoncito Pérez, the tale that born as a gift for a Queen". National Geographic (in Spanish).
  21. ^ "British Dental Journal - Volume 220 Issue 11, 10 June 2016". Nature. 10 June 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2022.
  22. ^ "Centuria Dental". Producto Registrado (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 20 October 2010.
  23. ^ "La fatina dei denti". Quotidiano del Canavese. 22 August 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  24. ^ Bucal, Salud (23 September 2014). "La historia del Ratón de los dientes". Yahoo News. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  25. ^ Beeler, Selby B. (1998). Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-6181-5238-4.
  26. ^ "British Dental Journal - Volume 220 Issue 10, 27 May 2016". Nature. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2022.
  27. ^ eungihon (12 May 2016). "Magpies and Baby Teeth | USC Digital Folklore Archives". Retrieved 30 September 2022.
  28. ^ Al Hamdani, Muwaffak; Wenzel, Marian (1966). "The Worm in the Tooth". Folklore. 77 (1): 60–64. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1966.9717030. JSTOR 1258921.
  29. ^ "British Dental Journal - Volume 220 Issue 9, 13 May 2016". Nature. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2022.
  30. ^ Parsons, Clara; Mountain, Rebecca; Jacobsson, Kristina; Bidlack, Felicitas; Lehmann, Lisa; Dunn, Erin (2024). "Cultural diversity of traditions for the disposal of exfoliated teeth: Implications for researchers". Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. 52: 139–149. doi:10.1111/cdoe.12928.
  31. ^ "National Tooth Fairy Day". Dentist in Roswell GA | Family & Cosmetic dentist | Dentist Roswell GA. Retrieved 1 February 2024.

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