Lost Tooth Rituals From Across the World
Lost tooth rituals are something many children go through all over the world, and while we’re familiar with the Western incarnation of the said ritual eg – child loses tooth, child places tooth under pillow, child finds money or gifts in return for said tooth – have you ever thought about other lost tooth traditions? What other tooth fairy rituals or missing tooth rituals exist?
It may surprise you to know that capitalist fairies who meet the paranormal market demands of missing teeth isn’t solely associated with English speaking countries. As much as we Americans would like to own the origins of the tooth fairy, the truth is that other cultures have their own set of lost tooth rituals that go way further back.
Okay, so while a Tinkerbell-style, good fairy isn’t present in all of these rituals, the concept of a mystical being or apparition bringing gifts, money, or good luck in exchange for lost teeth is everywhere.
Let’s take a closer look…
Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries
In Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Spain, the tooth fairy is replaced by a mystical rodent. Known as Ratoncinto Perez, or El Raton de los Dientes, “the tooth mouse,” also delights children with cash for their teeth.
Meet the tooth mouse!
The origins of this elusive mouse date back to the 1890’s (some thirty years before the tooth fairy) when child prince Alfonso XIII of Argentina began losing his teeth. To stop the young boy from feeling scared, his mother Queen Maria Christina turned to a popular writer of the time, Father Luis Coloma who proceeded to write a book about a small mouse called Perez, who visited a sickly prince in his bed at night.
A cross between the spirits in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and Santa Claus, the mouse took the prince on a journey visiting other not so fortunate boys as they slept. After the journey, and in return for giving the mouse a sip of water, Ratoncinto Perez left money for the prince on the condition that he used it to do good things.
France, Morocco, Belgium, and Switzerland
A similar lost tooth tradition involving another mouse is played out in many French-speaking countries. Children leave teeth in exchange for money for ‘la petite souris’ or ‘little mouse’. It’s thought that this mouse was from a sinister 17th-century tale where a fairy turns into a mouse to help defeat the evil king. As the king sleeps, the fairy mouse hides under his pillow at night and steals all of his teeth.
In El Salvador, children place their teeth under a pillow and await not a tooth mouse or a tooth fairy, but a rabbit. This is friendly buck-toothed rabbit rewards good children.
Other lost tooth rituals or customs
In Brazil, Japan, Greece, and Pakistan teeth are thrown into and onto various places for good luck. In Greece, for example, throwing teeth on the roof is thought to bring good fortune. While in Japan, teeth are thrown either up in the air or onto the ground. In Pakistan, teeth are thrown into a river and in Brazil, they’re simply tossed outside with the hope that they get picked up by a bird. The mystical bird won’t accept dirty teeth, or so the story goes, encouraging children to keep their teeth clean. The bird takes the clean tooth and leaves money behind.
Bringing tooth-tastic news!
In Ukraine, Nigeria, Lithuania, the Middle East, and Turkey, lost baby teeth are seen as good luck. In the Middle East, a baby tooth is presented to the sun while asking for an adult tooth in exchange. In Ukraine, children seek out the darkest recesses of the house where they leave the wrapped up tooth until the replacement tooth grows. In Nigeria, kids play a game with stones to ask for healthy adult teeth and in Lithuania, some children will keep their teeth in a special box or make them into a necklace or keepsake with the hope that it will give them a long and healthy life.
Finally, Turkish children bury their teeth in a location that they want to determine their future. If a child wants to be a doctor, they may bury the tooth in the garden of a doctor’s office. Alternatively, if the tooth is buried on a school playing field, they may want to become a great athlete or teacher. Of course, kids have a tendency to change their mind several times, but that’s why they have lots of teeth right?
From a tooth mouse to tooth fairy rituals and even throwing teeth on the roof, lost tooth rituals are as varied as they are steeped in history. It’s a good thing we have plenty of ways to lose our teeth in exchange for good fortune :).