What do people do with baby teeth around the world?

Updated August 19, 2016

Do you remember losing your baby teeth? Did you try to pull it out yourself? Did you wrap a string around it and a string around a doorknob and then shut the door? Was your tooth so wiggly it almost fell out on its own? If so, you are one of millions of people who have experienced the same thing and are now experiencing these same moments with their own children!

There are many traditions that come with discarding baby teeth. The one that we are most familiar with here in America is the Tooth Fairy, which is also present in many other cultures. Here, when the tooth is placed under the pillow at night, the Tooth Fairy takes the tooth leaving money in its place.

Around the world, though, this is only one of the methods used to celebrate the loss of baby teeth. Here are a few other traditions around the world that you can adopt into your family life to make losing a tooth a fun learning experience.

Burying the tooth

Certain American Indian tribes were known for burying their baby teeth in specific locations and covering their teeth with different kinds of brush, branches and herbs. They would bury the tooth on the east side of a sage bush because it was a symbol of childhood. Others would bury the tooth at the entrance to their home or community building and anyone who walked over the burial spot was supposed to grow a new tooth of their own.

In Turkey, the place you choose to bury the tooth will provide the child with luck in their future. So, if a parent wants their child to be a great scholar, the parent can bury the tooth in the garden of a library or university. In some cultures, the tooth is buried in hopes that it will grow.

Assistance of family members

In addition to burying the baby teeth, certain American Indian tribes would also enlist the assistance of family members including grandparents as well as the family dog. The Chippewa tribe would use charcoal to blacken the tooth then they would have the child’s grandmother ask for the permanent primary teeth to grow in healthy and strong.

Another Indian tribe called the Dene Yellow Knives would take the baby tooth lost from a child and give it to the mother or grandmother of the child to place in a tree with a good foundation with a straight trunk. The entire family would then dance and sing around the tree with the tooth in it, in hopes the new permanent tooth will grow in straight as the model tree.

In another Indian cultural tribute, the lost baby tooth of the child would be mixed in with meat available in the house. This meat mixture would then be fed to the family dogs while chanting, “Make my teeth strong”. This was thought to work because wolves are the ancestors of dogs and wolves have very strong, sharp teeth.

When a Cherokee Indian child would lose a baby tooth, they would enlist the help of their siblings to run around the house after throwing it on the roof. They would then chant the sentence, “Beaver put a new tooth in my jaw” loudly four times, one right after the other. It was thought that since a beaver had such strong teeth, a child could have the same strong teeth that could tear throw wood quickly and easily.

Throwing the tooth

Many different cultures believe in discarding the tooth by throwing it. Children in Brazil throw their teeth onto their roof and ask to be brought a new one to replace it. In other regions of Brazil they will throw or give their tooth to a bird that will bring them a new one. Of course, the bird will only do this if the tooth that is being offered has no cavities!

Egyptian children throw their lost teeth to the sun, wrapped it in tissue. Children in Greece will toss their baby teeth onto the roof and make a wish for their teeth to grow strong and healthy.

Japan has a belief that separates their lower and upper teeth. You throw the upper teeth down to the dirt and the lower teeth up to the roof. This is done in hopes that the teeth will come in strong and straight; the top ones growning straight down and the bottoms coming straight up.

Many cultures seem to think throwing the tooth brings good luck in having the permanent teeth come in straight. Children in ancient Abyssinia, what is now Ethiopia, would throw their lost baby tooth to a howling hyena in which they asked the hyena for strong and healthy teeth. Children in Botswana would throw their lost baby teeth on the roof of their home and ask the moon to bring them a new strong tooth.

Children in Greece also throw their teeth. They throw them on the roof of their childhood home to bring good luck. Then they make a silent wish that their permanent teeth will grow in strong and healthy.

Tooth placement

Just because a culture believes in the Tooth Fairy does not mean that they put the tooth under a pillow, although in Australia, the United States, and Denmark, this is the custom!. (In France, it's not a fairy at all, but a mouse!) Some cultures, such as Sweden, will put the tooth in a glass of water and wake up to coins in the glass instead of the tooth. In Russia the baby tooth is placed in a mouse hole and in the Philippines a wish is made and the tooth is hidden. If found a year later, you get another wish!

These are only a few of the many fun traditions that come with discarding old baby teeth. It is a monumental time in a child’s life, so don’t forge to make the most of it when your child loses their baby teeth. Adopt a few new traditions or start some new ones of your own!

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