February 28th is a day to look back on the history of one of dental care’s little helpers and to keep encouraging our children to develop good dental hygiene. It’s National Tooth Fairy Day.
Like some of the fantastic creations who oversee children, the tooth fairy is a relative newcomer to the world of childhood fantasies.
In the mid-1920s fairies were used for all sorts of health education from bath fairies to fresh air fairies as a way to get kids to remember to eat their vegetables, wash behind their ears and get a good night’s rest. Like toothpaste, today that advertises fruity flavors and sparkles to get kids excited to brush their teeth, in 1925 it was probably quite a bit more difficult considering the pastes were mostly peroxide and baking soda. One advertisement was for a Fairy Wand Tooth Whitener. This product promised to brush away cigarette and coffee stains. The ad was aimed at both children and adults, we hope!
Then in 1927, Esther Watkins Arnold printed an eight-page playlet for children called The Tooth Fairy. It was the same year Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “proved” his claim that fairies and gnomes are real and “verified” with pictures of two little girls surrounded by fairies. The world was ripe with imagination and primed to have a tooth fairy about to come collect the lost teeth of little boys and girls and leave a coin or two behind.
Arnold’s play began to be performed in schools the following year, and the tooth fairy has been slipping into homes ever since. She (or he) started leaving nickels and dimes under the pillows of sleeping children. Over the years there have been variations on the theme. In 1942, in an article written by columnist Bob Balfe in the Palm Beach Post, his children received War Stamps to put in their books when they lost a tooth. It was a popular alternative during a time when giving to the war effort was a motivating factor. Today, the tooth fairy jingles much less than ever. The average payout for a lost tooth ranges from $3 to $4 and can go even higher if Dad is on duty or if the tooth is lost late at night with no time for a parent to run to an ATM.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Use #NationalToothFairyDay to post on social media.
While our research did not unearth the source of either the February 28 or the August 22 observance, it is interesting to note the American Dental Association’s recommendation to have cleanings twice annually.
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