Have you ever stopped to wonder how the tooth fairy came to be?

She is, after all, as much a part of American culture as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, despite the fact she lacks a corresponding holiday.

Losing baby teeth is an important rite of passage across virtually all countries and cultures. In fact, every documented human culture has some sort of ritual regarding the disposal of primary (baby) teeth.

There are lots of variations, such as throwing a lost tooth into a fire, burying it, the mother swallowing it, etc. But one of the most widespread traditions, which can be traced all the way from Mexico to Russia to New Zealand, involves sacrificing baby teeth to a mouse or rat in hopes that the child’s adult teeth will grow in as strong as a rodent’s.

So how did we get from mice to a sparkly, flying fairy?

The tooth fairy as Americans know her today is a relatively recent construct. She is essentially a blend of the tooth-trading mouse and the European “good fairy” archetype. Her first printed documentation emerged in a 1927 children’s playlet by Esther Watkins Arnold. However, her appearance became widespread (not surprisingly) about the time that Disney was releasing its classic, fairy-featuring films like “Pinocchio” and “Cinderella.”

The money component is widely believed to be a wholly American construct.  It symbolizes a child’s transition into adulthood. By exchanging baby teeth for the cash, the child is shedding the trappings of youth in exchange for increased autonomy and responsibility, represented by the money.

How much does the Tooth Fairy pay?

According to Visa’s annual tooth fairy survey, children across the country received an average of $3.19 per tooth in 2015. That’s approximately $64 for a full adult set of teeth.

In a survey by Delta Dental, 44% of the parents interviewed said the amount the Tooth Fairy leaves depends on how much spare cash the parents have on hand the night their child loses a tooth. So the Tooth Fairy’s payout may vary from $1 to a $5 dollar bill if that is all the parents have on hand at the time.

Some parents that visit our office like to give their child a golden dollar coin for each of their baby teeth. These coins feature former U.S. presidents or Sacagawea. Because children are not often exposed to the dollar coin, and that it’s golden, they may consider it more of a treat than a paper dollar bill would be.

Regardless about the amount your child receives, it’s a great opportunity to discuss the importance of saving and budgeting with them.

Filling in the Gaps

Here at Six Forks Smiles, we are dedicated to keeping kids’ teeth healthy and bright. Making twice-annual appointments means we can keep an eye on your child’s dental development and make sure everything is proceeding as it should. Contact our knowledgeable staff at our Raleigh dental office today with any questions or to schedule an appointment.