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.
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:
- Too many kids lost their teeth so the fairy bag was too full so she will be back another day.
- There was a heavy storm and she could not fly safely.
- She saw you waking up and had to leave.
- She is sick and took the day off.
- 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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