How much is a tooth from the Tooth Fairy worth these days?

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year old daughter Viva, who doesn’t think of it as losing teeth so much as gaining cash.

My daughter, Viva, lost her first tooth last week. There’s already a new tooth in its place, a second tooth about to come out, and a second new tooth almost in that tooth’s place – because children are terrifying regeneration machines and their mouths are jagged portals to a tooth dimension.

Even though her first tooth was loose for days, we somehow failed to interface with the Tooth Fairy in time to determine what amount of money she’s bringing in the night in the modern era. Had we conferenced with the Fairy in time, we might have had her bring some kind of novel currency, like a two dollar bill or a dollar coin. Since we are not grandparents, we don’t keep those charmingly offbeat denominations just lying around, and we ended up having to make a quick decision on how much to instruct the fairy to leave behind.

As it turns out, there’s an annual survey of what the Tooth Fairy leaves, conducted in nearby Oak Brook by the folks at Delta Dental Plans Association. Their survey, conducted since 1998, examines results among a nationally representative sample of nearly 1,600 parents of children ages 6-12. They also calculate a Tooth Fairy Index which shows how tooth money rates correlate to the S&P 500. Turns out it tracks remarkably close.

If Tooth Fairy rates are an economic indicator, then we’re in bullish times because there’s been a 19.18 percent increase in payouts since last year, and there was a 13.5 percent increase before that.

The average going rate for a tooth these days? $4.66. ($5.72 for a first tooth.)

How does that make you feel? Old? Like you remember when $5 meant something? Well, now it’s tooth change, Oldy McOlderson. A $5 dollar bill is the new nickel, dime or quarter. Next thing you know, Santa will be bringing the $1,000 iPhone and the Easter Bunny will forgo candy and just bring bearer bonds in a suitcase cuffed to his wrist.

Back in my day, you could play a few games of Pac-Man with the money you got from the fairy—now? At the very least you’ll get a KFC boxed meal running about 720 calories and 86 percent of your daily sodium. Of course, if your child were to save that $5, plus $5 more dollars every day until they were about your age (in a tax-deferred account), they’d end up with a cool mill and less heart disease than the KFC will cause.

Obnoxious as $5 for one tooth sounds, we went for it—with the warning that the Fairy likely pays out less for subsequent teeth. Whether that’s $1 or $3 we’re not yet sure—although we like the idea of parlaying the fairy myth into some kind of savings lesson. Hopefully, with that lesson, a $5 tooth won’t put our daughter on a path towards asking next for Richard Pryor in a big inflatable wheel.

Some children, I hear tell on the playground, are asking the Tooth Fairy to drop off the money but also leave the tooth as a souvenir. On top of being selfish, this seems like Aronofsky-esque body horror. After all, if your child collects their own teeth, adds some hair and nail clippings and says the right incantation, harnesses some lightning or buries the teeth in the old misspelled cemetery, they can make themselves a brother or sister… but it will invariably be an evil one. No, thanks.

Also, it seems that in some homes, in lieu of or in addition to money, the fairy leaves dental hygiene implements, such as new toothbrushes or toothpaste or floss. These are the homes of nerds and you should never have playdates there because they will have lame snacks.

We put the money in Viva’s inherited tooth pillow which hangs outside her bedroom door. This allows the Tooth Fairy to make her midnight switcheroonie without having to zip down from the ceiling Mission: Impossible style to get a teeny rootless tooth from under the pillow of a keyed-up Kindergartener. I don’t know that this pillow was originally intended to hold bills instead of coins, but it does the trick.

If children decide in the future they only accept crypto-currency like Bitcoins or altcoins or some other kind of boop-beep future jive, you’ll likely need to retrofit your pillows with some kind of computer interface. Hopefully, Viva will be out of teeth before it comes to that.

So, if your child is getting older and their teeth are starting to wobble – you’d best start saving – that mouthful of teeth might just empty your pockets.


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