Have you ever wondered where the tooth fairy came from?
Everyone in the U.S. of A. remembers putting teeth under their pillow for the tooth fairy. If it was an especially big tooth maybe you would get a Susan B. Anthony dollar instead of the usual 25 cents. It is an easy tradition that almost everyone does, but does the rest of the world also participate?
The answer is largely no, the tooth fairy is a North American creation, but Spain and many of her former colonies do have a similar figure. In their folk lore the tooth fairy is a tooth mouse. His name changes from Ratoncito Perez to El Raton Perez depending on which country you are in, but his spunky personality is the same everywhere. He wears a broadly brimmed hat, trousers and a messenger bag. He and his wife live in a cookie box and when a child loses a tooth he scurries through the pipes of the city to their home. If the child is good and puts the tooth under his/her pillow then El Raton Perez will come to collect it. Unfortunately El Raton Perez is not as wealthy as the tooth fairy, and he does not leave money in exchange for the teeth he takes.
El Raton Perez first appeared in 1894 when a Spanish writer, Luis Coloma, was asked to write a story for the young prince of Spain, Alfanso XIII. Since the young prince had recently lost a tooth, she centered her story on an adventurous mouse that collects lost teeth. She told the young prince to put the tooth under his pillow and wait for a figure to appear. In the story El Raton Perez has to outsmart several cats on his way to pick up King Buby’s tooth, Alfanso’s nickname, and once he arrives at the castle he wakes the king up, turns him into a mouse, and shows him the country for one night. King Bubi is struck by the poverty his people are living in, a sentiment Alfanso XIII shared when he became king 8 years later.
Reading about the tooth mouse made me smile. It is such a warm concept, a little mouse who comes into your house and gathers your lost teeth. However, this tradition of putting teeth under pillows is strikingly similar to the tooth fairy’s practices. Which made me wonder who came first. As it turns out, the tooth fairy didn’t appear until 1927, and didn’t gain traction until the mid-1930s. Nobody is sure when the tooth fairy started paying for teeth, either. However, even though we do not know when money got brought into the equation, we do know that the price of teeth rising. According to Visa, American parents paid on average $3.70 per tooth in 2013, up from $3.01 in 2012. With that kind of money being thrown around, it’s easy to see why kids love the tradition.
Dr. Mike Malone and his team practice expert cosmetic dentistry in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Malone is the former president and current accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is also the official Cosmetic Dentist of the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants. Check out his website for more information.