Grin and bear it: Tooth Fairy payouts hit hard times

Matthew Lane • Feb 28, 2018 at 9:45 AM

KINGSPORT — So what’s the going rate for a tooth these days?

According to the Original Tooth Fairy Poll, a survey of more than 1,000 primary caregivers, the average tooth brought in $4.13 last year, which is 11 percent less than in 2016.

It would appear the Tooth Fairy has tightened her money bag somewhat.

Monday was National Tooth Fairy Day, and the poll — sponsored by Delta Dental of Tennessee — has typically served as a good indicator of the economy’s overall direction, tracking with the movement of the S&P 500 for 12 of the past 14 years.

The December 2017 poll shows the Tooth Fairy hasn’t quite been able to keep up with the market’s hot pace — with an 11 percent cash payout decrease from 2016, while the S&P 500 saw a total return in 2017 of almost 18 percent.

Even though the average price of a tooth dropped, the Tooth Fairy still paid out a healthy $271 million for lost teeth across the nation. 

Kingsport dentist Dr. Cheston Guest said from what he hears from his patients and parents, the going rate for a tooth ranges from $1 to $5. The highest amount he’s heard of is $20.

Guess it depends on what kind of mood the Tooth Fairy is in.

“We definitely talk to kids about the Tooth Fairy. Kids get excited about having baby teeth removed if they think the Tooth Fairy is coming,” Guest said. “It’ll help them get the tooth out themselves and there’s a motivation factor. Getting kids used to coming (to the dentist) early, coming in for regular cleanings. The fear factor is not as bad as it used to be.”

Since 1998, Delta Dental has conducted the Original Tooth Fairy Poll every year as a fun way to gauge how generous the tiny fairy had been in the previous year. The poll collects Tooth Fairy average giving and compares it to stock market activity to show how the value of a lost tooth relates to the U.S. economy. The poll was designed to capture a broad spectrum of the U.S. population, and not just those with dental insurance.

Other Tooth Fairy stats:

• The Tooth Fairy visits 84 percent of the nation's households with children.

• Fifty-five percent of parents confess that the Tooth Fairy may have missed a visit at some time.

• While the Tooth Fairy leaves money at 95 percent of the homes she visits, some parents say she also leaves a small toy or game (47 percent), a letter (35 percent) or a tooth brush (31 percent) in addition to or instead of money.

• Tooth Fairy payouts in the South averaged $4.12.

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