The last of the baby teeth are not usually lost until around age 11, although by then many children stop believing in the tooth fairy long before. Often it is kids at school or older siblings that ruin it for the younger ones. Children (like my granddaughter) will happily play along just to collect a little money for their teeth. A recent patient asked me if I knew where the myth of the tooth fairy began and because I did not have an answer I did some digging. There are differing accounts as for the very first, but many cultures have stories.
In the Middle Ages it was believed a witch could place a curse on someone with the use of their teeth, so they had to get rid of them by swallowing, burying or burning. Sometimes they were left for rodents or crows who reportedly had strong teeth. People thought a tooth fed to a rodent or crow could then lead to development of a good and strong adult tooth.
In 18th century France, the tooth fairy myth took on more fairytale features. A bedtime story, La Bonne Petite Souris, tells the tale of a mouse that turns out to be a fairy and helps a good queen imprisoned by an evil king. The mouse hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.
The idea of leaving the teeth under the pillow in exchange for money may have originated in Scandinavia. The Vikings paid children coins for a lost tooth. The teeth were then made into necklaces and worn as good luck charms in battle. You can just picture an image of a fierce Viking in a horned helmet taking the teeth of children.
The more delicate description of a fairy came later, as recent as the 1900’s. When WWII ended, American society became more prosperous, families became more focused on children and the tooth fairy idea gained popularity.
Many legends of the tooth fairy have been passed down throughout generations and cultures.