In the United States, losing a baby tooth often means a visit from the Tooth Fairy – a generous character who floats from house to house on nights children lose their baby teeth. As the tradition goes, a baby tooth placed under a pillow is exchanged for a reward from the Tooth Fairy. The reward, traditionally money in the U.S., is found by the child the next morning. In 2021, the average cash gift reached an all-time high of $4.70 per tooth (the 2022 Tooth Fairy Payout Survey results will be announced during National Children’s Dental Health Month on National Tooth Fairy Day, Feb. 28th).
The Tooth Fairy tradition in the U.S. is an exciting reward for a brave child who just lost a baby tooth. Not every tradition follows this story, however. In cultures around the world, losing a baby tooth doesn’t always mean a cash reward, or a Tooth Fairy at all.
France: The French Tooth Fairy isn’t a Tooth Fairy at all. Instead “La Bonne Petite Souris” is the name of the mouse who takes teeth from under pillows and leaves behind cash or sweet treats.
Spain: Similar to France, Spain’s tooth thief is also a mouse – one with many names: Ratoncito Perez, Raton Perez, Perez Mouse, or El Raton de Los Dientes. In Argentina, a similar tradition involves the same mouse, but instead of putting teeth under their pillow, children drop their teeth into a glass of water before going to sleep to provide Ratoncito Perez with refreshment after a long night of collecting teeth.
Asia: In some Asian countries like India, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, teeth aren’t tucked or placed anywhere – they’re tossed around. If a baby tooth is lost from the upper jaw, it’s hidden beneath the floorboard. If a baby tooth is lost from the lower jaw, it gets tossed onto their roof. The theory is that the child’s new tooth will grow toward their lost tooth.
Mongolia: In parts of Central Asia like Mongolia, children put their baby tooth into some fat and feed it to their family dog in hopes their adult tooth grows strong like that of a dog’s. If the child doesn’t have a dog of their own, they plant the tooth by a tree to make their adult tooth’s roots grow as strong as a tree’s roots.
Middle East: In Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, children will also throw their teeth but only into the air, toward the sky. This tradition likely dates all the way back to the 13th century.
South Africa: Instead of slipping a lost tooth under a pillow, the tradition in South Africa has children place their baby teeth into slippers before bed.
Although the Tooth Fairy comes in many forms, the message remains the same, to reward healthy oral hygiene, mark the passage from child to adolescent, and make growing up that much more fun.
Interested in keeping the fun and learning going or need a new book to read with your kids? Check out both of the Tooth Fairy’s storybooks by clicking the links below!