August 22nd is one of our favorite holidays, commemorating the beloved Tooth Fairy. In fact, she’s so special, that she has two days to celebrate her (the other is February 28th, if you’re wondering).
Unlike her magical peers, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy is a constant companion of parents with children ages 6-12. This age range is the start of a magical transformation – a time when wiggly baby teeth begin to fall out to pave the way for brand new permanent teeth. It’s also the perfect time for a little bit of everyday magic to soothe any anxiety your child may have about losing a tooth. As a dental office, we know a thing or two about the Tooth Fairy, and we also have some ideas on how to make sure her visits go smoothly.
Who is the Tooth Fairy?
The Tooth Fairy is a relatively new magical being, only beginning to grow in popularity since the late 1920s and is unique to western, and specifically American, folklore. She doesn’t come with prescribed features but a survey found that about 80% of children imagine this magic visitor to be female, with 10% viewing them as male and 10% who didn’t care either way. She’s often depicted as a small fairy (think Tinker Bell), but the Tooth Fairy can come in all shapes and sizes.
What does she want with baby teeth?
The Tooth Fairy collects a LOT of teeth, but why? Well, that’s her business. And while her motives are unclear, there’s plenty of speculation about what she does with the teeth she collects. What we do know is that she prefers to collect healthy teeth most of all. The rumor is that she gives the best rewards in exchange for these prized pearly whites. So, if your kiddos are struggling with good oral health habits, it’s a great time to reinforce positive behavior.
Some popular theories as to what she wants with teeth include building a palace, replacing her piano keys, passing them on to babies, and even for conducting science experiments.
How much does she pay?
Since 1998, Delta Dental has conducted an annual survey to track just how much the Tooth Fairy pays out per tooth. When the survey first began, the average reward was $1.30. The highest the average has ever been was in 2017 with a peak price of $4.50, however, this has declined over the last few years to come out to a new average for 2019 of $3.70.
What are some alternative rewards when the Tooth Fairy is short on cash?
Tooth Fairy payouts have always reflected the economy and so sometimes, due to factors outside her control, the Tooth Fairy runs short on cash (or couldn’t break a larger bill into change due to short notice). Instead, she’ll sometimes leave small gifts or trinkets. Stickers, dollar store toys, notes, or coins are popular examples. One of the most useful treasures the Tooth Fairy often leaves is a new toothbrush, toothpaste, or floss.
If your child is losing their first tooth, oftentimes the best gift the Tooth Fairy leaves is a container to keep their teeth in to make getting to the tooth quick and easy. If your child’s Tooth Fairy doesn’t leave a container, such as a small box or drawstring bag, it’s a great activity to DIY together. Old mint tins, upcycled ring dishes, small plastic containers, or even zippered baggies can be decorated to make finding your child’s tooth super easy for the Tooth Fairy.
How does the Tooth Fairy get around the unexpected?
One of the biggest hiccups parents face is when kids lose a tooth on a family vacation or the child needs dental extractions.
More than one child has experienced losing a tooth unexpectedly when away from home. If your child has an established rapport with their Tooth Fairy, such as leaving specific gifts or prizes, expectations can run high.
You have two options – explain that you forgot to let the Tooth Fairy know you were on vacation and you’ll do the exchange when you get back home or improvise. It’s perfectly reasonable that if the Tooth Fairy is expected to make an appearance on vacation, that she might not be able to leave her usual gifts.
If for whatever reason, your child has to have a tooth extracted at their dentist, there may be some anxiety about what happens with the tooth. Most dental offices have no problem in giving a child their pulled tooth and some even have little treasure boxes to put the tooth in for the ride home.
However, if you forget to get the tooth on your way out and your child becomes upset that the tooth won’t get to the Tooth Fairy, we’ve got good news – as dentists, we’ve got an established relationship with the Tooth Fairy and will make sure she gets it. Then, the Tooth Fairy will follow up with your child once they get home.
Should parents tell their kiddos about the Tooth Fairy?
At the end of the day, the Tooth Fairy is a useful character to help parents and dentists alike encourage good oral health habits and reduce anxiety surrounding the loss of a tooth.
Additionally, the Tooth Fairy and the fun and magic she brings with her are a great way to make memories. By no means are parents or children required to do business with the Tooth Fairy, but we do think it’s a great way to have a little fun and cherish your child’s journey through adolescence.