Hard times for tooth fairy: Money left for lost teeth drops significantly

OAK BROOK, III — The economy may be on an upswing, but times are tough for the Tooth Fairy, it seems. A year after hitting an all-time high for average payout per tooth lost by American children, the mythical fairy is cutting back on rewards for youngsters’ dental milestones.

Delta Dental, a leading dental insurance company, recently released the results of their annual Original Tooth Fairy Poll, which showed the imaginary benefactor’s average payout to have decreased to $4.13 a tooth last year.

Child with missing tooth smiling
It’s tough times for the Tooth Fairy. After hitting a record high for average payout per lost tooth in 2016, the mythical fairy significantly cut back on rewards in 2017.

This trend is interesting in that the Tooth Fairy’s award usually closely follows the activity of the S&P 500. In 2017, the two benchmarks went in completely opposite directions — Tooth Fairy payouts declined by 11 percent (down from $4.66), while the S&P 500 gained 18 percent.

Despite a per capita drop in payout, the Tooth Fairy still coughed up more than $270 million last year. Kids who had just lost their first tooth received the most — $5.70 on average — suggesting diminishing returns on their pearly whites.

However, even when the cash stops flowing so generously, a lesson can still be learned.

“No matter how generous the Tooth Fairy decides to be, a visit from the Tooth Fairy is a great way to teach children good oral health habits at an early age,” says Jennifer Elliott, a chief marketing officer at Delta.

The poll also reveals that while Tooth Fairy visits and cash gifts are near universal traditions— occurring in nearly 84 percent of households with children, and 95 percent of households on the Tooth Fairy’s route, respectively — some parents decide to do things differently.

For example, many parents leave a toy or game (47%), a letter (35%), or toothbrush (31%), in addition to — or in lieu of — a few dollars under the pillow.

Curiously, 55% of parents admit they had forgotten or otherwise missed a Tooth Fairy payment, leaving them in gummy territory.

Geographically, the Tooth Fairy spent the most per tooth in the Western United States ($4.85), and the least in the Midwest ($3.44).

This most recent iteration of the poll was conducted in late December with 1,007 parents of six- to 12-year-old children.


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