tooth fairy, baby teeth, losing tooth

Short-changed by the Tooth Fairy…

“I am writing a note to that tooth fairy, mom,” my youngest son announced, holding the baby tooth I had just pulled. “How come the tooth fairy only gives me a dollar for my teeth when my friends at school gets five or ten or even twenty bucks? Maybe I should sell my tooth to them!” Unlike Santa Claus, the tooth fairy was an unknown entity to me when I was growing up in Asia. So, when my oldest lost his first tooth, it was a scramble to play tooth fairy after they have gone to bed.

A Symbol of Luck…

The Vikings used their children’s first tooth as a symbol of luck in battle. In return, they would given their child a shiny golden coin. There is also the legend of the mouse fairy who would visit different homes when a child loses their baby teeth and leave a token gift behind.

Ever-growing Teeth…

Many species of rodents and rabbits continues to grow their molars and incisors as they age. This allows their incisors to remain sharp for them to keep gnawing on various objects. Because of that, the tooth fairy legend in France has a character known as La Petite Souris. This little mouse collects baby tooth that have fallen out and leave coins behind. In Hispanic culture, a similar mouse-like character acts like the tooth fairy. This tooth fairy mouse is known as Raton Perez.

Where Did the American Tooth Fairy Come From?

That was the question that Ms Rosemary Wells, a Professor at the Northwestern School of Dentistry set out to answer this question from 1970s till her death in 2000. She found the first mention of a tooth-fairy character in a children’s play published in America in 1927. Over time, this legend had evolved as a way to less the trauma of losing their baby teeth for children. In 1981, Ms Wells’ ‘research’ on the tooth fairy payment was published in New York Times. In that article, it was reported that the tooth fairy paid out an average of 66 cents per tooth in 1981.

Dental Economics…How Much is A Baby Tooth Worth?

Back to modern day United States, the tooth fairy survey is now conducted by Delta Dental Insurance on an annual basis. According to this survey, in 2016-2017, the tooth fairy is paying between $4-5 on average per tooth. Back in the 1990s, the tooth fairy paid out an average of $1 per tooth.

*Gasp*, can my seven year old be correct in that he has been ‘short-changed’ by this tooth fairy the entire time?

To Pull or Not to Pull?

When is it safe to pull a child’s loose baby tooth? Since the price of a professional extraction at the dentist in United States ranges from $50 to $100 if you do not have dental insurance coverage, this is a question many parents wonder about. If there is a loose tooth from an injury, it is best to consult with a dentist even if it was a baby tooth. Sometimes, the dentist may need to do some work to stabilize the loose (or replace a missing tooth) to ensure the permanent tooth eventually grows correctly.

According to the American Dental Association, the dentist approved way is to wiggle it out by grabbing onto the loose tooth with a gauze or tissue. Their recommendations is not to pull loose tooth that you cannot wriggle out, as you can sometimes damage the tissue or leave parts of it still in, leading to an infection.

Special Tooth Container…Or Just Keep It Instead

Hunting for a tiny baby tooth under the child’s pillow in the middle of the night, while trying not to wake them up, is no fun. Because of that, all baby tooth awaiting the tooth fairy retrieval in my home is placed in a ziplock bag. More recently, the tooth fairy had too many spare baby teeth, so she still gives a small payout but leaves a note telling the child to keep the baby tooth that was fallen out. There are special containers you can buy (or decorate your own), to keep these baby teeth as keepsake.

What If the Tooth Fairy Forgets?

“Mom! The Tooth Fairy didn’t come last night. She doesn’t like my tooth.”

Sometimes, the tooth fairy forgets to drop by to retrieve the baby tooth. Or mom/dad fell asleep and forgot to play tooth fairy. Since that has happened more than once, here are some (somewhat) plausible excuses I have come up with:

  1. Too many kids lost their teeth so the fairy bag was too full so she will be back another day.
  2. There was a heavy storm and she could not fly safely.
  3. She saw you waking up and had to leave.
  4. She is sick and took the day off.
  5. Your room is too messy and she could not get to your bed to get the tooth.

Do you have any family traditions relating to the tooth fairy? Any other money ideas relating to the tooth fairy you care to share? Comment below!

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9 thoughts on “All About the Tooth Fairy and Baby Tooth Economics

  1. I grew up in Asia too.

    In our house, the tooth fairy pays $5 by default. There have been incidents where my son got paid $1 (“you didn’t take care of it enough!”) or $20(“that was in great condition!”). Tooth fairy missed coming to our house once because she was probably sick, but she was fine the next day!

    1. Thanks for visiting and sharing your experience! Lesson to me – it does sound like im shortchanging my kids and am behind times 🙂

  2. There were times the tooth fairy missed our house for a week. She always left an apologetic note about her vacation. My son stayed up way too late reading and I’d fall asleep…

    1. I have missed it a few times as well. I tried to get my husband to play tooth fairy and he refuses, so tooth fairy does not visit if mom is working an overnight shift.

  3. I gave my oldest child a dollar for her first tooth and then when she announced her friends got $5, $10 or $20…I knew I was not going to play that game. I promptly announced that the tooth fairy told me she prefers to give small gifts. So I always had a stash of small gifts to place under pillows but if I wanted them to have something, I bought a gift that cost more. Kids don’t really understand the price of toys so I could get a bunch from the dollar bin or once I put a $20 educational toy there. Early on, I realized I needed to keep my kids from being able to directly compare!

    1. Good idea! I don’t think I’ll be paying the $5-$20 that other kids at school are getting. Thinking of some books/toys to get.

    1. No back debt allowed! Im sticking to $1 dollar and will likely get books from toothfairy instead. Thanks for sharing – now i don’t feel as much of a miser.

  4. We did $1 per tooth with our older children and $5 if we were on a vacation trip (probably because that’s all we had the first time it happened). More recently, my husband upped the per tooth rate to $2 for our youngest child. For the times we forgot, we always said that the tooth fairy was so busy and delayed in Europe. I’m guessing they hated that excuse.

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