The tooth fairy is a legendary figure who leaves money under a child’s pillow in exchange for a baby tooth that has fallen out.
Teething rituals date back to ancient times. Most societies view teething as a rite of passage and have evolved their own particular rituals and superstitions. But this particular ritual, combining teeth and fairies, may be only a century old.
The “tooth fairy” as we would now recognize her first appeared in the United States in the early 20th century and slowly grew in popularity over the ensuing decades. The Tooth Fairy, a children’s play, was published in 1927. Rogow’s 1949 story “The Tooth Fairy” seems to have been the first children’s story written about the subject.
The latter years of the 20th century saw the commercialization and merchandising of the myth.
So what does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth? There’s no consensus. Satirist and author Terry Pratchett surmises that the tooth fairy’s business involves intricate record-keeping and accounting, and says she “carries pliers – if she can’t make change, she has to take an extra tooth on account.” Perhaps that part is best left unshared with the kids.
There is no evidence supporting the existence of a tooth fairy.