The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy or similar concept is common in many Western countries including the UK and the USA. Although it has similarities with some ancient folklore and legend, it appears to be a relatively recent concept.

Many older societies had rituals for the disposal of body parts such as teeth, often in the belief that this would prevent witchcraft or other malefic influences. These included practices such as burying teeth or throwing them into the fire. However the Tooth Fairy herself only arrived on the scene in the last hundred years.

What Is The Tooth Fairy?

Most people have two sets of teeth during their lifetime. The first set – known as baby or milk teeth – begin to fall out from around five or six years of age and are replaced by the adult teeth.

The Tooth Fairy collects these baby teeth at night. If a child places the baby tooth under their pillow then the fairy might take it. In its place she leaves a little gift. This might be candy or a treat or – increasingly common nowadays – cash. Sometimes she will even leave a letter for the child. Needless to say the tooth fairy is never seen when carrying out her work.

Why the Tooth fairy collects teeth, where she takes them and what she does with them are unknown.


The first known direct references to the Tooth Fairy only occur in the 20th century (although there is an 18th century story La Bonne Petite Souris – The Good Little Mouse – which is sometimes proposed as an antecendent). In 1927 Esther Watkins Arnold published a short three-act play, The Tooth Fairy. However the fairy really hit the big time in 1949 with the appearance of a short story by Lee Rogow. She quickly proved popular with children and parents alike and since then hasn’t looked back.