Although I don’t remember what happened when I lost my first tooth, I have a vivid memory about the night my daughter lost hers. Molly Bennett, who is now 19, lost her first tooth three weeks after her sixth birthday. The little bugger had been loose for almost a month and hung by a thread for days before it finally came out. Molly’s mom had been dying to pull the tooth, but our strong-willed 6-year-old did not allow anyone to touch the tooth, let alone pull it out. The tooth finally came out when Molly bit into a caramel apple one night after dinner.
Like all American parents, we jumped for joy and put Molly’s tooth under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy. When Molly woke up the following morning, a shiny silver dollar was waiting patiently under the pillow. (In case you’re wondering, kids have 20 baby teeth, which means you can make a bundle depending on how much you get per tooth. Last year, U.S. kids earned on average $2.10 a year for lost teeth. )
But what about children in other countries? According to the book “Throw Your Tooth on the Roof” by Selby Beeler, the Tooth Fairy does not visit everyone on the planet.
Here’s a look at tooth traditions from around the world:
Put the tooth under the pillow. Like you, kids in Canada, Australia and many European countries put their teeth under their pillows. However, in France and Spain (as well as Colombia and Venezuela), a mouse — not a fairy — comes to claim the tooth from under the pillow. The mouse leaves some money or candy for the child.
Put the tooth by your bed. In Mexico, kids put teeth in a small box on a table next to the bed. During the night, a magic mouse (El Raton) takes the tooth and leaves some money for the child. In Argentina, kids put teeth in a glass of water next to the bed. The next morning, the tooth is gone and some coins or candy are in the glass. Kids from South Africa put teeth in a slipper. A mouse takes the tooth during the night and leaves a small gift.
Throw the tooth on the roof. Instead of wishing for money, lots of kids throw baby teeth on the roof so their permanent teeth will come in straight and healthy. Some countries with this tradition include Greece, Singapore, Taiwan and Botswana. Kids in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia use a variation on this technique. They toss lower teeth on the roof and upper teeth under the bed.
Other traditions. Some kids bury their baby teeth in a mouse hole (Afghanistan), throw them into the river (Pakistan) or even feed them to a mouse after wrapping them in bread (Kyrgyzstan). In Turkey, the place where a tooth is buried indicates the parents’ wishes for the child’s future. For example, if they want their child to be an excellent soccer player, they bury the tooth in a soccer field.
But regardless of all these fun traditions, the biggest key to keeping your teeth healthy and strong is to brush them twice a day!
Bennett is a Washington pediatrician. Check out his Web site, www.howardjbennett.com, for past KidsPost stories and other cool stuff.