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Here in the U.S., the tooth fairy is the one children believe to collect their teeth from under pillows at night, leaving gifts in their place. But this adorable figure looks very different elsewhere. Learn about 6 tooth disposal traditions from around the world, some past and some present.

  • I Smell A Rat: The tooth fairy is actually a recent myth which developed from a tooth rodent! All of the elements of the tradition are the same (tooth under pillow, gift replacement), the only difference is that a rat or mouse collects the teeth instead. This is a tradition practiced all over the world because rodent’s teeth are constantly growing, so giving your teeth to them is thought to encourage your own teeth to grow as well.
  • Tooth Jewelry: Scandinavian Vikings didn’t give their teeth to a rat, but rather they kept them. These teeth were made into a necklace which was thought to bring good luck on a battle field.
  • Tossing Your Teeth: In several Asian countries including China, Japan, and India, children threw their teeth either on the roof or the floor. Bottom teeth were tossed up to the roof while upper teeth were tossed down to the floor to encourage the direction for permanent tooth growth.
  • Tooth Burning: In medieval Europe, lost baby teeth were immediately tossed into the fire. This may seem an unceremonious tradition, but people were concerned that a witch would get a hold of these teeth and use them to control their children.
  • Just Feed It To The Dog: In Mongolia, you would wrap lost baby teeth in fat and feed them to your dog. This was done in hopes that new teeth would grow in as strong as a dog’s teeth.
  • Tooth Burial: Also in Europe, children used to bury their lost baby teeth in the garden. This was done so new teeth would grow just like the plants did in the garden.