The moment is finally here – that first little pearly white is out leaving a gappy-toothed grin and high hopes of a tooth fairy visit.
In many countries, however, baby teeth aren’t collected by a fluttering fairy baring coins. Some traditions involve feeding teeth to animals, others throw them on rooftops or even making them into jewellery.
Here are 12 unique baby teeth traditions from around the world.
It’s all about tooth throwing in Japan. Instead of waiting for a fairy to come fetch their baby pearly whites, Japanese children throw their teeth – lower baby teeth are thrown onto the roof, upper teeth onto the floor. It’s said it helps the top adult teeth grow down and bottom teeth to grow upwards.
While France’s tooth-taking tradition gets its inspiration from a fairytale, it’s not a fairy that collects children’s teeth, but a mouse. Petite Souris, the pearly white loving rodent comes from a French tale, and he leaves either money or lollies under children’s pillows.
Interestingly, France isn’t the only country to have a tooth-loving rodent sneaking into their children’s bedrooms. Spanish-speaking countries have their own four-legged fang-taking creature – Raton Perez. He’s a mouse who leaves money or gifts in exchange for children’s teeth. Some kiddos leave their teeth under their pillow, while many Argentinean kids drop their little toothy peg into a glass of water – which is eagerly lapped up by Raton Perez before he leaves his gift.
Italian bambinos have a choice, with the country split between the tooth fairy – Fatina dei denti and Topolino dei denti, the tooth mouse. Or, there are those who believe in both – the tooth fairy and her helper, the tooth mouse. He lives in a palace and guards children’s teeth that he collects from across the world. Children pop their teeth either under their pillow, or under the leg of a table (because that’s much easier for a mouse to reach!). In some parts of Italy the teeth are collected by Saint Apollonia – the patron of all things dental. It’s said that she arrives at children’s homes on a chariot made of teeth, and pulled by mice.
In the land Down Under we pass on the tradition of the tooth fairy, much like England, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Finland and Denmark (where she’s called ‘Tandfeen’). Little ones place their teeth under their pillow, and the tooth fairy takes them, leaving behind money and a note – usually in reply to one written by the gappy-smiled tot.
There’s no hiding baby teeth under pillows in South Africa – instead, they’re popped into slippers. Children then cross their fingers and hope that a mouse will take their tooth, and leave behind money.
Still on animal toothy traditions, in Alaska, some native tribes actually feed baby teeth to animals, usually a dog, and ask that they bring a new tooth to replace it.
It’s a similar story in Mongolia, where dogs are fed baby teeth inside their food. It’s thought this will help the child to have adult teeth that are just as strong as a canine’s.
In Turkey, baby teeth are used as a bit of predictor to the child’s future career. Bury their first tooth near a doctor’s office and the little one could grow up to be in the medical field. Or if the parents prefer their tot is a little more sporty, they can bury the tooth near a field.
Nigerian children have quite the ritual to perform with their lost baby teeth. Boys hold their tooth and eight stones in their fist, girls hold six stones. Then they must close their eyes – some traditions say they have to run around a building the same number of times as the stones, then throw the contents of their hands onto the roof. If they don’t their adult tooth won’t grow.
It’s all about clean, healthy baby teeth in Brazil. Kiddos throw their lost teeth outside and cross their fingers that a bird will pick it up. But if the tooth is dirty, the birds will pass it by, and not leave a present for the child.
Chile and Costa Rica
Proud mummas in Chile and Costa Rica keep their children’s baby teeth, and a make them into a charm. They’re then given back to the children. Charming.
If there’s a wobbly tooth in your house, it’s worth reading up on these 9 excuses why the tooth fairy didn’t visit last night. Just in case.