August is National Tooth Fairy Month!
What can we learn from 800 years of lore?
Glimmering greetings, magical mouths! Welcome to the second National Tooth Fairy Month of 2023. That’s right, the pearly-whites pixie gets a celebratory month not once, but twice a year. As you probably know, kiddos all around the world celebrate the Tooth Fairy year-round with a beloved tradition: tucking lost baby teeth under their pillow at bedtime in exchange for a gift, typically a small sum of money — a special coin, a few bucks, or even a glittery $5 bill (Tik Tok is a gold mine for Tooth Fairy ideas!). In the morning, the child wakes to a surprise worth a gummy smile. Does that ring a tinkerbell?
Whether you have distant childhood memories of the Tooth Fairy’s visits, or have gotten to know them during parenthood (wink), you’re likely familiar with the dash of magic they add to the ordinary bedtime routine. But have you ever gotten curious about the origins of this enchanting creature? They’ve been fluttering around since the 18th century. Read on to find out what 800 years of fascinating (and totally bizarre) lore can teach us about ourselves and our collective commitment to oral care!
The very first fairy
Let’s saunter through Europe's distant past, birthplace of the Tooth Fairy’s predecessors. We’ll begin in the land of tea and crumpets, where British servant girls were bestowed with "fairy coins” while they slept. No teeth in this tale, just the very first seeds of prosperous encounters between fairies and children. Folklore from the emerald hills of Ireland told of "changelings" (AKA evil fairy babies) who were swapped for human infants under the cloak of night. Here’s where the teeth come in — due to their association with the body’s defenses, teeth were considered potent symbols of protection and could’ve been placed around cribs and cradles to ward off the kidnapping fae folk. Kinda creepy? Sure, but cool to hear how these ancient humans harnessed the power of teeth — our body’s natural armor!
In 18th century France, legend held that if an animal nabbed a baby tooth, the child would sprout a set of matching adult teeth! Jokingly, people hoped mice would swipe their fallen teeth since rodents had strong chompers that never stopped growing. Inspired by the popular tale, author Madame d'Aulnoy penned a story about a mouse who protected a newborn by becoming a fairy. As the story and its protagonist gained popularity, kids began to leave their baby teeth out for La Petite Souris (the tiny mouse) to sneak into their room and tuck coins under their pillow. In Central and South America, a whiskered compadre named El Ratoncito Pérez popped up. After WWII, the Tooth Fairy appeared on U.S. shores, where storybook sales boomed and European fairytales inspired a whole generation of new children's tales.
Good parenting keeps the dream alive
After years of separation during the war, American families were eager to reconnect. The whimsical new tradition played off the popular fairytales kids had grown to love, while encouraging good oral care habits — a new health norm brought home by soldiers, who were required to brush daily during their service. Families also had more disposable income thanks to the post-war economic boom, enough to spare a few coins for the Tooth Fairy’s visits. By casting storybook magic off the page and into the family home, the Tooth Fairy helped families bond while laying the new foundation for a life of good health and fortune. Not only did their kids get good morals, they got good molars, too!
European influence continued to shape American culture, and soon enough gift-giving holidays (like Christmas) became a cheerful custom. While gifts during wartime were sparse and practical, the economic prosperity of the 20th century allowed families to spoil kiddos with books, toys, and even more money under their pillows — an amount that's still trending upwards! That’s right, the Tooth Fairy might be an incisor — sorry, indicator — of the economy. Delta Dental’s 25th annual Tooth Fairy Poll reports that in 1998, the average value of a tooth was $1.30. Today, it’s at a record high of $6.23! Even when the S&P 500 declined, the Tooth Fairy delivered. We love to hear that the Tooth Fairy is inflation-resistant, and happy parents are still letting them in ;) High five, parents! You’re magical.
…but good oral care in children has a real impact
Today, the Tooth Fairy remains a beloved guest in 81% of U.S. homes! And their magic is backed by science: The Washington Post reported that healthy parenting prioritizes humor, placing emphasis on getting silly with kids. This approach applies to life lessons, too. The author writes, “As any teacher can attest, children may better retain facts and concepts taught through jokes, puns or rhymes.” What about a dress-up day and a Dwayne “The Tooth Fairy” Johnson watch party? The real reason “fun” parents are so successful isn’t because they’re willing to don a tutu and a magic wand, but because they nurture healthy actions in their child through positive reinforcement — an approach research continues to prove is effective in managing behavioral issues.
Making oral care rewarding is a must for modern parents, as many struggle to get their kids to brush. In 2015, 45% said oral care is one of the biggest challenges their kids face (tougher than eating veggies!). The good news is that this year’s poll revealed that more than 1 in 3 parents say the tradition instills good oral health habits in their children, and in anticipation of the fairy’s glittering arrival, 27% of children head to bed early. What parent doesn't wish they could wave a magic wand to encourage better brushing habits? The Tooth Fairy is the friend they need!
There’s magic in lessons that last a lifetime
While quip makes it easy for parents and kids to brush together for 2 minutes, twice a day (matching Kids and Adult brushes, anyone?), the Tooth Fairy works overtime to instill the value of proper oral care habits and overall health through imaginative, kid-friendly reinforcement. We make a powerful team! To really drive the message home, parents should emphasize that the Tooth Fairy loves clean, healthy teeth. The fantastical formula is still practical advice: Healthy baby teeth = healthy grown-up mouth! 🔮 Let’s give it up for the Tooth Fairy, the oldest oral care enthusiast still in practice, for adding whimsy and wisdom to a necessary part of being human — keeping healthy habits!