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Fun Facts about the Tooth Fairy I Bet You Didn’t Know Existed (and a Classic Tooth Fairy Tale)

Since 1998, Delta Dental has annually conducted the Original Tooth Fairy Poll® as a fun way to gauge how generous the tiny fairy had been in the previous year.

Here is the link to the poll if you would like to participate.

According to Delta Dental’s 13th annual Tooth Fairy survey, cash payouts have soared during the past year to an all-time high average of $4.66, good for a 75-cent increase from 2015. That’s a nearly 20% increase in the value of a lost tooth.

One of the interesting comparisons that the Tooth Fairy Poll has made over the years has been tracking the changes in the value of a lost tooth with the S&P 500 stock market index.

The poll shows the Tooth Fairy’s cash payout increase is within a percentage point of the S&P 500’s, continuing the survey’s pattern of following the index’s direction for 12 of the past 13 years.

Last year, the Tooth Fairy paid about $290.6 million in the U.S. for lost teeth, a 13.5% increase from 2015. Cash payouts for a first lost tooth are up about 10% to $5.72. (First-tooth payouts are typically higher than average.)

According to the poll, the Tooth Fairy visits 85% of the nation’s households with children, and in most of those homes 89% of the children receive money. The fairy is also known to occasionally leave gifts that promote dental health, such as toothpaste or toothbrushes. (I’m glad that tooth fairy never visited my house when I was little.)

Here’s some additional fun facts:

  • Tooth Fairy payouts are highest in the West: $5.96 ($6.89 for the first tooth); followed by the Northeast at $5.08 ($6.31); the South at $4.57 ($4.88); and the Midwest at $4.04 ($5.70). I guess the West, home of Hollywood, really is the land of make believe.
  • 48% of children save their money, while 48% spend the money; 3% donate the cash, and 1% loan out their money. (What kind of kid that gets a visit from the Tooth Fairy is also lending out money?)

One of the earliest references to the tooth fairy was in a 1908 “Household Hints” item in the Chicago Daily Tribune:

Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5 cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions.

I remember getting very excited about the tooth fairy visiting our house when I was a little kid, and the tradition continued when my wife and I had our own children. I think there was quite a bit of variation in what the tooth fairy paid, and it was not a function of how the stock market was doing, but more of a function of how much loose change the tooth fairy could scrounge up.

One time we remembered about the tooth fairy in the middle of the night, and I grabbed what I thought was a dollar bill and put in under my son’s pillow. The next morning our son came running in to our room telling us that the tooth fairy had left him some money, and he stood there holding a $20 bill. My wife and I vaguely recall somehow switching the twenty for a fiver sometime that day, hoping our son would never know the difference. (Before you judge me, the stock market was not having a good year.)

But the best tooth fairy story belongs to my niece’s daughter.

Charlotte is only three years old, and has not yet lost any of her teeth. However, she was apparently so entranced by the thought of getting some cash for a tooth that she decided to try and trick the tooth fairy. She told her mom that she was going to put a little white pebble under her pillow that looked like a tooth so that the tooth fairy would leave her some money.

Well the tooth fairy never came (I think that was the day the stock market did not do very well, hmmmm….), and Charlotte was a bit disappointed (and so was I, but about the stock market).

I guess she realized that the tooth fairy was a bit smarter than perhaps she realized.

And I guess I realized that the stock market is a lot smarter than I am.

But I do hope that when Charlotte loses her first tooth that her parents pay her a small fortune; doing so could have a significant impact on my 401K for the year.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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