This image: From IMSI's MasterClips/MasterPhotos 202,000 © 1997 Collection,
1895 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, CA 94901-5506 , USA


(Investigator 119, 2008 March)

Fairies are small, flying, human-shaped, supernatural entities who have dragonfly-like wings, wear sexy miniskirts or silk negligees, and perform magic. The Tooth Fairy (TF) is a specialist fairy who, in English speaking countries, leaves cash (or a gift) in exchange for teeth.

Children lose their 20 baby teeth – also called milk teeth, deciduous teeth and natal teeth – progressively from age 5 to 12. The tooth is placed under the child's pillow or in a glass of water and overnight TF makes the exchange.

Ken Bryndilsen, on the Internet, says his son couldn't concentrate, eat or enjoy play due to a loose tooth and therefore he told him:

…he was acting like a baby, and that I was ashamed of his lack of control. I told him that pain, like joy, was a part of life and that he better face the fact and deal with it… (1989, October 1)

After assimilating these facts junior, eyes red and cheeks tear-smudged, "dealt with it" and the tooth came out.

Yes, straight talk is effective! Children, however, feel connected to their teeth (pun unintended) and part with them more readily if paid.

Belief in fairies goes back centuries. TF arrived in the 19th century and became active in country after country. In America she bypassed immigration requirements and got established about 1900. As with Santa and the Easter Bunny, children considered her a fact of life.

Dallas, Texas has America's "only professional tooth fairy". Dental hygienist Jennifer Vespia used to teach oral health in schools but the kids were bored. Therefore she became "Sparkle the Tooth Fairy". Terri Rimmer reports:

She donned a set of huge wings, bought a bunch of glitter and found a dentist to pay for her to educate kids in a different way - as a Tooth Fairy…

A dental assistant for 18 years and a professional Tooth Fairy…for three, Vespia has created an altar ego… (2006, November 5)

Sparkle sprinkles fairy dust, wears fairy costumes, distributes toothbrushes, teaches kids about brushing, and drives a colorful van called "Sparklemobile".

What does TF do with teeth? One hypothesis is she places them in the sky and they glimmer on clear nights as stars! Other kids think the teeth become building material to enlarge her palace.

One Internet confession admits to having believed in multiple TFs:

I believed that they all worked in a little factory and when they brought teeth back, they would run those baby teeth through a machine that made them grow or turn into big teeth and then the toothfairies would place those bigger teeth in your gums...

Cash-strapped kids have been known to practice fraud and offer fake teeth. In America's Funniest Home Videos a girl showed a note she received: "This is not a tooth. Signed The tooth fairy"

Compared to Father Christmas tooth fairies are tight-fisted, often paying under $5. One girl left a note for TF stating that a friend got $20 for a tooth – so could she have $50. TF didn't oblige.

Six-year-old Jessica Lekich bypassed TF and went door-knocking to find sponsors:

She managed to raise $10,289.45 in her "first wobbly tooth campaign" and yesterday gave that cash to the Gold Coast Children's Hospital… (Daily Telegraph 2007, May 26)


The world's top TF authority was Rosemary Wells a former Dental School professor. She created the Tooth Fairy Museum in 1993 in Illinois and gathered a huge collection of TF memorabilia.

Wells even researched TF economics and proved that the exchange rate for teeth had kept up with inflation. The Museum may have held definitive evidence of TF's existence, but unfortunately for research was liquidated after Wells died.

A 50-year-old Investigator reader had a tooth removed in 2007. She retrieved it from the dentist the following day explaining she wanted to test TF's authenticity. The reader said, "The dentist thought I was mad!" The reader placed the tooth under her pillow for two nights but no cash appeared.

But not all the evidence is negative. An Internet report tells how a "real life tooth fairy" assisted research in England into childhood asthma.

Milk teeth begin to develop before birth and take up trace elements and minerals. Dr Seif Shaheen suspected that fetuses with inadequate iron and selenium have greater risk of wheezing in childhood and asthma later. A research project enrolled mothers to donate their children's milk teeth so the mineral content of teeth from asthmatic and non-asthmatic children could be compared:

Scientists investigating the rise in asthma among Britain's children have turned to the tooth fairy to help them in their research.

…staff…at the University of Bristol have collected almost 12 thousand milk teeth.

Instead of putting them under the pillow the children were asked to donate the teeth to the study. Inside the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, real-life tooth fairy Kaija Turvey made sure that every tooth was rewarded with a badge… (10/07/2003)

In Texas TF is assisting stem cell research. "BioEden Baby Teeth Cell Bank" is the world's first fully-operational laboratory and storage bank for primary teeth stem cells.

Lin Stone writes that "Tooth Fairies" are suffering downturns in the resale market for used teeth since nobody needs them. However:

A few Tooth Fairies have been lucky enough to uncover a new company [BioEden] that has been founded to provide preser-vation service for stem cells, using primary teeth plucked from beneath the pillow of young children. According to President Jeff Johnson, "…When your child's tooth begins to loosen, the tooth fairy can call us. We will send out a kit with processing instructions, and make arrangements to have the tooth transported to our facility in Austin..."
The Internet has a website run by Fairyland on which TF replies to e-mailed queries such as:
  • Her marital status, age, language, and where she gets the money she swaps for teeth;
  • Why she didn't come – was it too windy? Did the dog scare her?
  • Whether she gives flying lessons;
  • How one can become a fairy or visit Fairyland;
  • How long it takes a "wiggly tooth" to come out;
  • Would she return a tooth and take the money back;
  • Whether she could leave a photo of herself ;
  • How she sneaks her hand under the pillow;
  • Whether she gives money for a swallowed tooth;
  • Could she stay awhile and play;
  • Whether she collects adult teeth.

  • One youngster e-mailed that he pulled out a good tooth just for the money! Another was practicing flying and had stayed airborne 30 seconds!

    There is also Tooth Fairy, Inc. about which the Internet says:

    Gone are the days of hiding the recently loosed tooth under the pillow and finding the shiny coin the next morning. It's getting too cost prohibitive for the Tooth Fairy… Fuel costs are up, and inflation dictates greater payout values…

    Instead of 'pillowing' the tooth, the child can, with adult assistance, package it up and ship it to one of Tooth Fairy, Inc.'s regional tooth exchange depots, where it will be received, registered, appraised, and a check for the appropriate amount mailed out to the child right away. (March 23 2003)



    Kids with milk teeth number 500 million worldwide. Let's assume

    1. TF takes no vacations
    2. TF visits only 20% of kids
    3. Each kid loses two teeth per year.

    From these assumptions it follows that TF visits over 500,000 homes every night!

    This hectic schedule is impossible to maintain which "Debbie" confirms as follows:

    The Tooth Fairy was late arriving at our house one day and we were able to delay our daughter's disappointment by telling her that there are so many people that…she gets there late. Well, she arrived when the daughter was taking her bath and left her a $5 bill… (2007, April 11) 

    "Lucy B" says TF missed her 8-year-old daughter: "And to make matters worse, her 11-year-old brother had a visit from TF the very night before… Disappointment (and tears) reigned…" (2007, April 5)

    Logistical problems of transporting quantities of teeth and cash are similar to those of Father Christmas discussed in Investigator 45 and 93.

    Some people think TF magically changes the teeth into money, and thus avoids transport problems, but Investigator writer Kirk Straughen has effectively criticized belief in magic.

    The shortest distance connecting 500,000 points separated by up to half the circumference of the planet is unsolved but would total millions of kilometres. TFs blistering speed would burn her miniskirt off from air friction! Her velocity would exceed that of meteorites entering the atmosphere – and meteorites burn up!

    Perhaps TF uses a nuclear powered airplane? This would protect her miniskirt and permit transport of teeth and cash. But a large, high-velocity craft violating national air space would be noticed! And landing without permission in residential areas would incur fines and court appearances.

    Furthermore, to enter strangers' houses uninvited at night would be a police matter! And how does TF obtain children's addresses? Mere possession would be highly suspicious!

    These are confronting considerations, but search for truth is never easy. A plausible solution is that there's a leading TF who has many assistant fairies!


    Many ancient societies considered teething a milestone and had rituals associated with it.

    In Medieval Europe witches used hair, fingernails and teeth for cursing people and therefore proper disposal of body pieces was paramount. Throwing the item onto the roof, swallowing, feeding to an animal, burning, and burial in the ground were all used.

    The tooth mouse or "the little mouse" appeared in 18th century France in the children's story La Bonne Petite Souris in which a fairy in the form of a mouse helps a queen defeat an evil king.

    "Ratoncito Pérez" was introduced in 1894 by priest Luis Coloma (1851-1915) when the Crown asked Coloma to write a tale for the 8 year old Alfonso XIII after a tooth fell out.

    After that teeth and fairies increasingly got together and pillows substituted for burial.

    A writer on the Internet considered the tooth mouse a "cheap bastard" because: "I once left my two front teeth under my pillow and only got 20 lousy pesos. Being toothless and broke sucks."

    Italy has both tooth fairy and tooth mouse. Scotland has a white fairy rat which buys teeth with coins. In some Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam, when a child loses a tooth it's thrown onto the roof if it came from the lower jaw and under the floor if it came from the upper jaw.

    TF entered American literature in a children's play published in 1927, followed in 1949 by Lee Rothgow's storybook The Tooth Fairy. After that TF's popularity rapidly grew.


    In the movie Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups, the Tooth Fairy seduces Santa Claus. In Santa Clause 2 and Santa Clause 3, Art LaFleur plays TF. He is part of a council of folk characters headed by Mother Nature that helps Santa Claus return to the North Pole.

    Kirstie Alley in Toothless plays a deceased dentist who serves as the Tooth Fairy to avoid going to Hell.

    The novel Hogfather (Terry Pratchett) has TF subcontracting teeth-collection and collecting them so that they can't be misused with magic.

    Tasty Teeth (G Del Toro & M Robbins) tells of a tribe of fairies who suck the marrow from children's bones. The Pope negotiates an end to this practice with the King of the Fairies by allowing tooth fairies to take teeth children lose but pay a silver coin. (From: Wikipedia)


    On the "I Used To Believe" website "Barbara" says she tested whether the tooth fairy was real by putting a newly lost tooth under her pillow without telling her parents: "The next morning, there was no money! That day I pretended to my parents that the tooth had just fallen out, and the morning after that, there was the money under my pillow. Proof that my parents were behind the tooth fairy scam!"

    And "Dev" says: "I faked I was still asleep, but I saw the truth. My mother WAS the tooth fairy!!"

    Elsewhere "Andrew" confesses: "Whenever I lost a tooth I put it by my pillow and the tooth fairy replaced it with $1. When I turned 17 I realized that the tooth fairy was my parents. I did not tell them that I knew, and kept getting $1 until I was 35."

    The Internet has some actual parental confessions. Marybeth Hicks fell asleep while her 7-year-old daughter stayed awake "to see the tooth fairy…maybe play together". Next morning daughter found her tooth still there and, sobbing, declared, "The Tooth Fairy didn't even care." Hicks admits that she dashed off a letter containing $1, signed "Tooth Fairy", stating she couldn't get into the house due to locked doors.

    Confessions by fake tooth fairies don't rule out genuine tooth fairies, but overall the evidence seems conclusive.