BY DANIELLE SPANO
The Tooth Fairy is a North American contemporary tradition, but the concept of trading a lost tooth is not unique. It is the fairy, herself, that is unique to this continent. Customs from other parts of the world range from legends of toothless witches to a mouse and even the Virgin Mary gathering baby teeth.
No matter the tale, they all involve trading a lost tooth, and in any fair trade, compensation is valued by the quality of the good being exchanged. A clean, white tooth should reap higher reward than one less cared for. So, the Tooth Fairy can be used as a reward system to promote good oral hygiene in young children. While her trade is most commonly economic, she is a fairy, which gives you the freedom to express her magic in more unique ways than just a cash transaction. You can twist the cash custom to foster financial responsibility and generosity by having your child donate their tooth proceeds to charity or go with one of these other unique ideas.
Since this is all about teeth, stick with the concept! Promote healthy teeth and reading with a book about going to the dentist or encourage taking turns and group play with a dental themed board game. The Tooth Fairy can even leave a new toothbrush featuring your child’s favorite character or one that plays a song to time their brushing (this is a fun gift for them and you help them maintain hygiene by trading in an old, bacteria ridden tooth brush with a new, clean one). Children love to role play, so why not leave a dental play set and set the stage for a future dentist in the family!
Take a page from Santa’s book! From miniature cars to puzzles and collectibles, the options are endless when it comes to toys. If your child likes Barbie dolls, the Tooth Fairy can leave one (maybe even the dentist Barbie!). Lego fanatics are always up for a new set. Let your child’s preferences lead the way when it comes to these rewards.
In promoting good oral health, it seems counterproductive to leave sweets, but if you do not typically allow sweets and snacks, losing a healthy tooth is a special (and rare) occasion to ‘sweeten the pot’ with a bit of candy. If your child regularly eats sweets and has experienced cavities, this will cloud the message of maintaining healthy teeth and may not be an effective reward.
No matter what route you take, make it magical! Dr. Robert Mixon of Kids Only Dental Place, describes how the Tooth Fairy can be beneficial to a child losing a first tooth, “It is often a little scary to them, so by interjecting a ‘tradition’ that adds an element of fun can help them to overcome their anxiety to the change and help them realize that this is a normal process of growing up that can be sort of fun.” A little magic can go a long way, and promoting good oral hygiene to your kids at a young age with benefit them into adulthood, so welcome the Tooth Fairy into your home!
Visit mouthhealthykids.org for fun Tooth Fairy tools from the American Dental Association. From brushing calendars, tooth loss trackers and door signs for coloring to let the Tooth Fairy know they have a tooth to trade, the website has a host of activities to get everyone ready for a visit from the Tooth Fairy.