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The tooth fairy in folklore

The tooth fairy is a common figure in the early childhood for those in the West and Western-influence cultures. Other cultures have different traditions, in France it's a mouse or a rabbit that visits, in Spain it's Ratoncito Perez, other countries have beavers, cats, dogs, or even squirrels.

The legends go back thousands of years, and the fairy in Western culture has appears in many shapes and sizes, young and old, human to spirte and even animals and birds have inspired the look of the tooth fairy.

The folklore says that when you lose one of your baby teeth, you should place it underneath your pillow and the tooth fairy will visit whilst you are sleeping, take the tooth and leave you some money in return.


It's believed that the tradition of the tooth fairy started around 1900, according to Peter Navarez. There's a tradition from Lancashire that children should brush their teeth and take care of them, or they'd be visited by 'Jenny Greenteeth', who hangs around ponds. She was a sort of fairy-like figure, but perhaps more of a hag, or witch. 

The tooth fairy idea did not appear much in literature at that time, and was more of a oral history tradition, although today she is a popular tradition with children and parents, and a great way to get children realising the importance of looking after their teeth.


Celebrating good oral health

tooth-fairy-book-ronan2.jpgIn the UK, Tooth Fairy Day is celebrated each 28 February, and we encourage children and parents to think about good oral hygiene and routines in relation to their baby teeth.

Check out our top tips for looking after your teeth.

We are leading on calls for radical action to lower the nation's sugar intake, with measures ranging from lowering the recommended daily allowance, through to action on marketing, labelling, and sales taxes, to prevent tooth decay.

​Find out more about dental folklore from our archives.


Send us your tooth fairy pictures

For our Museum archive, we'd like to build up a collection of tooth fairy letters and pictures from children – please email us with your letters and drawings and we'll feature on our website and social media channels.


Tooth fairy gallery


Matthew, aged 5

Ronan, aged 6



Joelle, aged 7

Tooth fairy little letter.jpg
 Letter from the Tooth Fairy Ash Quillbranch to Jonny, for giving up his dummy!

BDA Museum

The BDA Museum has one of the largest collections of dental heritage in the UK. Spanning the 17th century to the present day, highlights of the collection include dental chairs, drills, oral hygiene products, and the infamous 'Waterloo' teeth. Pop in and see for yourself.