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The practice of putting a child’s tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy has ancient roots in European folklore. Initially, the “milk” tooth was unnamed-17buried in a field or garden in the hopes that a permanent tooth would take root and grow in the child’s mouth, much as a garden plant. It was also a safeguard against a witch getting hold of the tooth and casting a spell on the child. As more and more people moved from rural settings to urban ones, the shed tooth would be buried in flower pots or planter boxes. The
next progression was to simply place the tooth under a pillow for the tooth fairy.

But other countries have slightly different traditions. In Denmark, the tooth fairy is named “Tandfeen” and she leaves money in exchange for the tooth, wherever it is hidden. In France, the tooth is collected by “La unnamedPetite Souris”, a little mouse, who exchanges the tooth for money or candies. In Spain, the little mouse is mouse takes it and leaves a gift in its place.

Another common tradition disposing of baby teeth is to throw the tooth on the roof in hopes that a sparrow will bring a new one. In parts of Africa, children will throw an upper tooth on the roof and bury a lower one in the ground, hoping that a magic lizard will see the tooth and cause new ones to grow. Brazilian children throw the tooth outside and believe birds will come to take it, but only if it is clean. A dirty tooth is left behind and the child gets no treasure, which is good encouragement for good oral hygiene!

Some Central American countries even make jewelry out of the teeth for their child to wear, which may actually be a remnant from ancient Viking traditions. Historians say that in early Celtic development it was believed that children’s articles were powerful and lucky, and were often carried in battle. A “tooth fee” was paid to children so the adult could have the use of a baby tooth, and the tooth was often made into jewelry for a warrior to wear as a magic talisman. A primitive and fearsome interpretation of the tooth fairy, but nonetheless tied to a universally held belief that anything shed from the body carried within it vital powers for well-being and longevity.