Centuries ago, children in Europe used to bury their baby teeth when they fell out. Typically, the teeth were buried in the front or back garden or a field near the child’s home. Back then, they used to think that burying their baby teeth would ensure that a new permanent tooth would grow in its place.
Additionally, it was a common belief that if a witch got ahold of the tooth, they would be able to put a curse on the child. So it was important to bury it to keep it protected from the evil curses.
Sounds strange, right? But this tradition and others like it in other cultures are actually where our tooth fairy folklore comes from.
Tooth Fairy Traditions Across the Globe
Many countries still have tooth fairy traditions of their own and they vary widely.
France – La Petite Souris
In France, a little mouse, La Petite Souris, visits young children in the night and leaves money or sweets in exchange for teeth. It is thought that La Petite Souris arises from a 17th-century story called La Bonne Petite Souris. In this story, a fairy turns into a mouse to help defeat an evil king by hiding under his pillow and making him drop all of his teeth.
Ireland – Anna Bogle
Irish children are visited by Anna Bogle, a mischievous young leprechaun girl who knocked out her front tooth while playing in the forest one day. Self-conscious of her gap-toothed smile, Anna sneaks around Ireland and takes the discarded teeth of children in hope of finding a perfect fit. But Anna is a nice leprechaun, so she thanks the children by leaving a piece of gold behind.
Sweden – Tandfe
The Swedish tandfe is similar to the American Tooth Fairy. Swedish children put their baby teeth in a glass of water beside their beds, and when they wake up, a ten crown piece (about 1 US dollar) is waiting their in place of the tooth!
Belarus – зубная фея (Tooth Fairy Mouse)
Belarusian children place their lost teeth in mouse holes with the hope that the mouse will reward them with a strong replacement tooth. These mice are hard at work every day of the year except for Christmas Day. If Belarusian children give their teeth on Christmas day, the mouse is doomed to die.
Japan – Straight Up or Straight Down
Children in Japan don’t entertain mice, fairies, or leprechauns. Instead, they throw their bottom teeth straight up and top teeth straight down. The straighter the throw, the straighter the teeth when they grow in!
Turkey – Burial
In Turkey, the predominant belief is that a lost tooth can influence the future. Turkish parents will bury their child’s tooth near the site of something relevant to the career that they want them to pursue. For example, if they want their child to be a doctor, they’ll bury the tooth near a medical school.
Each culture has their own variation of a baby tooth tradition, but they usually involve one of these rituals:
- Throwing the teeth into the sun
- Burying the teeth
- Swallowing the teeth
- Tossing the teeth onto the roof
- Placing the teeth into a mouse hole
- Throwing the teeth into a fire
- Throwing the teeth between the legs
- Hiding the teeth from animals, in a tree, or in a wall
Tips for Parents
When your children are very young, it’s easy to use the Tooth Fairy to incentivize healthy habits. Express that the Tooth Fairy only likes healthy teeth and that if they don’t brush their teeth, they won’t get money.
Strong permanent teeth rely on healthy baby teeth, so it’s important that your child practices a good oral health routine from the very beginning, no matter what you do when the teeth fall out.