This Is the REAL Story Behind the Origin of the Tooth Fairy

Hint: it involves Disney. And... mice?

This-is-Where-the-Tooth-Fairy-REALLY-Came-FromYev Haidamaka /

Think back to the moment you realized you had a loose baby tooth. You might’ve gotten totally freaked out every time, or you may have been one of those kids who yanked out their loose teeth as soon as physically possible. Either way, you surely remember the thrill of putting a tooth under your pillow in hopes that the Tooth Fairy would fly in and swap it for some cash. (Adults can lose teeth, too, for a much scarier reason—here’s how.)

That is, if you grew up in the United States. Children in countries all over the world do all sorts of different things with their lost teeth. The surprising variety of tooth traditions is explained in the fun book Throw Your Tooth on the Roof (which children actually do in Botswana). But with so many different customs, how did America end up with the Tooth Fairy? Next time your kid loses a tooth, try out one of these ice cream traditions from around the world.

Well, first of all, the winged tooth collector has not been around for as long as you might think. According to, the idea of a fairy taking children’s lost teeth didn’t come to be until the early 1900s. In 1927, Esther Watkins Arnold wrote an eight-page mini-play about the tooth fairy for kids. This is the first written record of the fairy. So she’s not even 100 years old!

As for how she came to be in the first place, she was inspired by other tooth traditions—namely, the Tooth Mouse. This tradition—popular everywhere from Mexico to New Zealand—is one of the world’s most widespread. But… why a mouse? There’s actually a very simple explanation: mice have strong teeth! Children leave their teeth for the Tooth Mouse in hopes that they’ll get teeth just as strong as his. Here are 8 foods that keep your teeth strong and healthy.

But in America, people believed a magical fairy would be more comforting to kids who were a little thrown off by the fact that they were losing parts of their body. (And we’re sure the money didn’t hurt either.)

And here’s where Disney comes in. Just as the idea of the Tooth Fairy was gaining popularity, so were Disney animated movies. Characters like Pinocchio‘s Blue Fairy and Cinderella‘s Fairy Godmother helped people imagine what she might look like, and solidified the Tooth Fairy as a cultural icon. Next, learn the story behind 9 Easter traditions (yup, including the bunny).


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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine.