Friday was National Tooth Fairy Day, and while plenty of Americans surely celebrated the day by employing the fairy (or fairies) and her generous cash giving, the rest of the world has their own tooth-centric traditions in place to honor anyone or anything responsible for whisking their teeth away. Think that placing your tooth under a pillow and waiting for money to appear in its place is wacky? You haven’t seen anything yet!
1. The United States and Beyond
In America (and other primarily English-speaking countries), the tooth fairy is typically employed in a relatively simple transaction that sounds totally bizarre when explained to the uninitiated: In order to help ease the trauma of losing baby teeth, American kids are paid off for their toofers—lose a tooth, put it under your pillow, go to sleep. At some point, a fairy will arrive to exchange the tooth for some cash. Last year, the going rate was an average of $3.70 per tooth. See? Losing teeth really isn’t so bad. (You can read a history of the American Tooth Fairy here.)
One of Spain’s (and other Hispanic cultures, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia) most beloved myths centers on Ratocinto Perez, aka Raton Perez, aka Perez Mouse, aka El Raton de Los Dientes, who is just what he sounds like—a mouse who collects teeth. Like the tooth fairy, Perez gets the teeth only after they’ve been lost and put under a child’s pillow. Perez will then replace it with a gift—not always money—and leave it to be found by a happy child in the morning. Some Argentinean kids switch it up by sticking their teeth in a glass of water before bed. When Perez shows up—surely parched from all his teeth-collecting—he’ll drink up the water, grab the tooth, and leave his gift in the empty glass. Want to learn more? Visit the Ratoncito Pérez museum in Madrid!
3. South Africa
South Africans might ascribe to the same general line of thinking—leave the tooth, get some money—but they don’t use pillows as tooth holsters. Instead, their baby teeth go into slippers.
4. India, China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam
Putting a tooth under a pillow sounds soft and sweet, but it also sounds kind of boring. What about tossing those teeth around? In some Asian countries, that’s just what they do. Historically, kids who lose teeth from their lower jaw will throw their teeth onto their roof, while upper jaw teeth go on the floor or even under it (the idea is the new tooth will be pulled towards the old tooth). That’s not all, though, because as the tooth-losing kiddo tosses their teeth, they sometimes yell out a wish that the missing tooth be replaced by the tooth of a mouse. What, is Raton Perez at it again? Nope, mice (and other rodents) just have teeth that continually grow, which sounds like a wise request when one goes missing.
5. Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt
Asian countries aren’t the only place you’ll find kids throwing their teeth up in the air—in some Middle Eastern countries, kids are encouraged to toss their teeth up toward the sky. It’s possible that the tossed teeth tradition dates all the way back to the 13th century.
Throughout Central Asia, it's traditional to put the tooth into some fat and feed it to a dog (don't try this at home). This is done because they want the grown up tooth to be as strong as the dog's teeth. If there's no dog? Bury it by a tree so that the new tooth has strong roots.
Mice aren’t just big business around Spain; the French also abandon their teeth to their very own mouse: “La Bonne Petite Souris.” As is so often the case, the tiny mouse will procure teeth left under pillows, replacing them with either cash or sweets (bad idea, Petite Souris).