If you’re living in Canada and you’ve got a loose tooth, you know what to do: just wait for that tooth to fall out, stick it under your pillow or in a special container, and wake up the next morning to money that’s all yours! All thanks to the Tooth Fairy!
The Tooth Fairy also makes the rounds in the United States, Great Britain, and most of northern Europe. But in other places in the world, the Tooth Fairy has unusual relatives who help out. Or there are customs for what to do with baby teeth that might bring luck, but no cash. Read on to find out more about toothy traditions from around the world.
Photo by Alice licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
In some parts of the world the Tooth Fairy has whiskers and a tail instead of wings and a wand. That’s right, there’s a Tooth Mouse! In France, she’s called La Petite Souris, which means “the little mouse,” and at night this small and stealthy mouse sneaks under pillows to exchange the tooth for money or treats.
Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives licensed CC BY 2.0
Spain has a tooth-loving mouse too, named Pérez. This mouse does the tooth collecting for a lot of other Spanish-speaking countries, like Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia. In Argentina, instead of under the pillow, kids leave their tooth in a glass of water – not only does the mouse get the tooth, he also drinks the water. Picking up all those teeth is thirsty work!
Photo by iStockphoto/Giorez
In many Middle Eastern countries, kids don’t leave their teeth for a mouse or a fairy. Instead they take their tooth outside and throw it up in the air, aiming for the sun. It’s thought that this will make the new teeth grow in faster and be even stronger than before.
Photo by iStockPhoto/Anna Anisimova
In Japan, they throw their teeth too, but the bottom teeth are thrown up into the air, while the top teeth are tossed to the ground – it’s to copy the direction the teeth grow in. A good, straight throw is supposed to bring in straight new teeth.
Throwing teeth around is a popular thing to do in a lot of places, but in some countries kids are aiming for the roof. Kids in Greece, Botswana, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Ethiopia throw their teeth on the roof. They do the same in China, Vietnam, Korea and India, but only the bottom teeth, the top ones get put somewhere low, like under the bed or even under the floorboards. In many of these places, the hope is that a bird or a squirrel or a mouse will take the tooth – that’s supposed to guarantee that the new tooth will grow in quickly.
Not everyone’s looking to give their teeth away to any animal or fairy creature that comes along. In Nepal, it’s actually bad luck if a bird makes off with your baby tooth, so kids their bury their teeth in secret spots. Malaysian kids bury their teeth in the ground too, it’s seen as returning the tooth back to nature.
Parents in Turkey try to influence their kids’ future careers by burying teeth in different places – it’s thought that burying the tooth near a hospital will help the kid grow up to be a doctor, or in the playground of a school encourages their child to be a teacher someday. Soccer fields are popular, because everyone wants to be a good player!