How much tooth fairy?

How much does the tooth fairy pay for a lost tooth? It may depend on what’s in your wallet


Sometimes the tooth fairy doesn’t stop by when a child loses a tooth. Next time that happens, these excuses could help. USA TODAY


The tooth fairy’s generosity or stinginess often comes down to how much cash is on hand.

According to Delta Dental’s Original Tooth Fairy Poll, 46% of parents said spare cash was the No. 1 factor in determining Tooth Fairy payouts and 31% said children’s ages set the value of a tooth.

Thursday is National Tooth Fairy Day, a made-up holiday celebrated twice a year on Feb. 28 and Aug. 22.

In 2018, the Tooth Fairy paid an average of $3.70 per tooth – a 43-cent decline from the previous year’s average of $4.13 – almost $1 less than the 2016 average, the poll found. More than 1,000 parents of children ages 6-12 nationwide participated.

“The disclosed value of a lost tooth may be slipping but is significantly greater than the 1998 national average of $1.30, which equates to about $2.00 today with inflation,” Delta Dental said in a statement.

It’s Tooth Fairy Day!: Here’s 5 funny excuses for forgetful tooth fairies

Who has the best chicken sandwich?: Popeyes, Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s are clucking on social media

Not having small bills has cost Renee Nordgren, a mother of four in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Her 8-year-old daughter Ella has received various payouts, including a $50 bill and a $25 gift card.

“She conveniently only loses her teeth late at night and when I have no small bills in my wallet,” Nordgren said. “She lost one on Monday and got $10 as it was the lowest bill I could find.”


If you thought you were going to make out like a bandit after losing a tooth…think again! Turns out parents are paying less these days!

Nordgren said her friend has a stack of $2 bills stashed away for her kids’ loose teeth, but joked that’s too much effort.

“Cash just really isn’t used,” Nordgren said. “Watch in 10 years, kids will have wristbands that we can digitally add money.”

About 2 in 5 parents admit to paying more than the national average with their children receiving at least $5, according to the poll. The first lost tooth also has more value and where a kid lives played a role in the tooth fairy payout.

The website did a poll in August with more than 1,700 parents to calculate the average price per tooth by state.

State-by-state breakdown


Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

Every parent knows that once their kids hit a certain age and teeth start falling out, it’s time to pay up. But many parents these days wonder if there is a “right” amount of money to leave under a child’s pillow from the tooth fairy? Well, the answer might surprise you.

The Original Tooth Fairy Poll conducted by Delta Dental recently revealed that a lost tooth now nets an average of $4.13, and that’s down from last year’s $4.66. This marked a departure from the poll’s steady correlation with the stock markets.

“Most years, Ms. Fairy leaves a bit more under the pillow when the S&P 500 is up,” the website states. “However, her cold cash payouts couldn’t keep up with the hot stock markets this year.”

If four bucks sounds like a big jump from your childhood, you’re not wrong. Another survey released by personal finance company LendEDU last week told a similar story. Members of Generation Z receive an average of $3.25 per tooth, while millennials earned $2.13, Gen Xers got $1.39, and Baby Boomers scored a mere 69 cents.

The difference doesn’t sound so big when adjusting for inflation, however. Baby Boomers actually got the best deal, with $5.77 in today’s money, and Gen Xers getting $5.54, and millennials actually receiving the least with $3.72.

Don’t worry about counting out exactly 13 quarters for your kid’s next molar though. Approximately one third of parents still leave a dollar, by far the most popular amount in a 2015 Visa survey.

That doesn’t stop other families from handing out $5, $10, or even $20 for incisors, Moneyish reports. Whatever number you land on, remember this: kids lose a whopping 20 teeth, so big payouts add up quickly.

And if you’re wondering when this strange tradition developed in the first place, the origin of the tooth fairy actually only dates back to the early 20th-century. The folklore may stem from the mouse mascot (La Petite Souris or Ratóncito Pérez) that performs the gift-for-tooth duties in many other countries around the world.

No matter who’s doing the job (and let’s face it — it’s the parents!), the legend has stuck as a rite of passage that soothes kids, encourages oral hygiene, and teaches a financial lesson all at the same time.

Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.

Tough times for the Tooth Fairy?

According to a new study by Delta Dental, kids received an average of $3.70 per lost tooth last year, down 43 cents from 2017.

In 2016, the Tooth Fairy left an all-time high of $4.66 per tooth, meaning last year marked the second consecutive year the numbers have gone down, indicating the Tooth Fairy’s days of philanthropy appear to have ended. Tooth fairy payouts have served as a fairly reliable economic indicator, according to Delta Dental, tracking with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index for 14 out of the past 17 years.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

The average tooth fairy payout has risen to…

Feb. 28, 201701:27

Even though the she (or he) may not be spreading as much wealth these days, plenty of kids are still fattening their wallets with every gap in their smiles. In homes where the Tooth Fairy visits, 37 percent of parents admit giving their child at least $5 for a tooth. Losing a first tooth is another reason for parents to break the bank — they cough up an average of $4.96 for this milestone.

And while the Tooth Fairy may be feeling the pinch, this mythical character continues to be a way for youngsters to learn about the value of money, with 48 percent of parents saying their little ones elect to save the cash they get for their teeth.

Scaling back how much we give children for losing teeth could ultimately provide an important lesson for kids.

KLG and Hoda discuss the tooth fairy’s deep pockets

Sept. 7, 201210:01

“Leaving money for kids under the pillow is a fun time-honored tradition, but we don’t want it to turn into a slippery slope to entitlement,” Amy McCready, founder of and author of “The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic,” tells TODAY Parents.

“Usually, the more we give, the more kids want. Keep in mind, giving in to demands for a higher payout from the Tooth Fairy will likely lead to giving in to demands on all sorts of issues down the road — from the hottest new toy, to name-brand clothes, to the latest tech gear,” McCready added.

She also said it’s good to have a strategy when it comes to paying out for a tooth.

KLG, Hoda sound off on spoiled kids

June 7, 201208:42

“Decide how much your kids get for a lost tooth — and be consistent with that amount through the years. If kids complain that your Tooth Fairy doesn’t leave as much as the neighbor’s Tooth Fairy — smile and ask if they plan to save or spend their Tooth Fairy money — don’t get into the trap of keeping up with the Jones’ tooth fairy.

“And remember, it’s OK (and even good) for kids to be disappointed from time to time.”

The tooth fairy is one of those magical traditions of childhood that everyone remembers. But how has the tooth fairy changed over the years? Learn more about how the tooth fairy tradition started, what the tooth fairy pays today, modern tooth fairy trends, and some other traditions children around the world follow when they lose a tooth.

When Did the Tooth Fairy Tradition Start?

Although it seems as though the tooth fairy has been around for hundreds of years, the concept is actually much younger than you think. The first time the tooth fairy was mentioned in print was in an eight-page play written for children by Esther Watkins Arnold in 1927. While the play went relatively unnoticed for a while, the popularity of the Disney fairy characters helped make the tooth fairy become a fixture in many households.

How Much Does the Tooth Fairy Pay?

The current average rate for a lost tooth in 2019 is $3.70. If you think that figure is a steep price to pay for a small tooth, consider that this amount is actually down from previous years. In 2018, the tooth fairy paid $4.13 for each tooth, and in 2017, the tooth fairy had an all-time high price of $4.66 a tooth. These numbers come from surveys and express an average received – so don’t worry, the tooth fairy isn’t counting out odd numbers of dollars and cents on a case-by-case basis.

Pay With Fairy Money

If you want to leave some money under the pillow, but want to make the occasion special and memorable, consider making fairy money. If you’re paying with a few bills, spray them with glitter hairspray to make them look as though they came straight from the tooth fairy’s purse. If you’re paying in coins, you can also make sparkle coins. Simply spray them with adhesive and dust them with glitter while they’re still wet. Your kids can save their fairy coins or exchange them for a prize.

Leave Something Other Than Money

If you’d rather not give money when the tooth fairy visits, consider leaving behind a different prize or gift. Since the tooth fairy is all about healthy teeth, the tooth fairy can leave behind a new toothbrush and toothpaste with your children’s favourite cartoon characters. Another fun option is a special coupon for something your children enjoy doing, such as taking a trip to the park or watching a movie with you. A new book left under the pillow is another great idea for a tooth fairy visit.

Leave a Miniature Note

Baby teeth are small, and the tooth fairy is small. It makes sense that the note the tooth fairy leaves behind should also be small. To make your own tiny reply from the tooth fairy, trim down a piece of paper as small as you can get it while still leaving enough space to write. The tooth fairy can thank your children for taking good care of their teeth and encourage them to keep up with brushing their teeth. To make the miniature note more magical, consider dusting it with a little glitter.

Make a Tooth Pillow

Children get excited when they lose a tooth, and they may worry that they will lose a tooth in bed before the tooth fairy has a chance to come and collect it. You can help calm those fears by giving your children a tooth pillow. You can either purchase a tooth pillow or make your own.

If you’re feeling creative and want to make a tooth pillow, sew a pocket on the front of a small pillow. Your child can stick a tooth in the pocket. At night, the tooth fairy can retrieve the tooth and replace it with the money, gift, or note.

Create a Tooth Fairy Journal

Every lost tooth is an important milestone on the journey to adulthood. One way you can memorialize this changing smile is by creating a tooth fairy journal. Each time your children lose a tooth, take a picture of their smile and put the photo in a journal. You can include notes in the journal, such as the date the tooth fell out and how it came out. Once the journal is complete, you and your children will have a fun way to look back at the progress they made toward an adult smile.

Other Traditions Around the World

Children around the world have different ways to celebrate a lost tooth. In Argentina, kids will put a tooth in a glass of water for the El Raton de Los Dientes, which translates to the tooth mouse. The mouse comes during the night to drink the water, take the tooth, and leave behind a prize in the empty cup. In Japan, children are encouraged to throw their teeth. Lower teeth are typically thrown upward toward the roof, and upper teeth are usually thrown downward toward the ground.

While the tooth fairy has changed a little over the years, the ultimate goal is still the same. The tooth fairy remains a cheerful legend who can help bring comfort to children as their bodies change and encourage good dental health.

This is how much the Tooth Fairy pays per state

The Tooth Fairy must have a lock on its purse.

For the second consecutive year, payouts from the Tooth Fairy have plunged with moms and dads giving out just $3.70 per tooth, leaving kids with less in their pockets as rates are down 43 cents from the previous year, according to data compiled by Delta Dental.

Although the national average dropped, not all parents follow the same guidelines. Thirty-seven percent of parents said they are pretty generous, giving their kids at least $5 or more for Tooth Fairy visits, with the first lost tooth usually being the priciest with a national average for $4.96, according to the poll.

Regionally, it pays to leave your tooth under pillows in Western American households. The West pays the most per tooth — $4.19 — with the South ($3.91) and the North East ($3.75) following above the national average. However, children in the Midwest are being stiffed by the Tooth Fairy as parents pony up just $2.97-a-tooth, 73 cents less than the national average, according to the survey.

The price of teeth

While nearly half of all kids use their Tooth Fairy visits’ earnings as a way to save money, parents also get something out of it. More than half of parents said it’s the joy of giving their children something to be excited that make Tooth Fairy visits enjoyable. Those visits also provide some partial relief, as well, with 30% of parents saying a Tooth Fairy visit enables for some personal quiet time with their kids going to bed earlier, hoping that the Tooth Fairy will visit.

“While our Original Tooth Fairy Poll is rooted in fun, it is also interesting to see how parents are using visits from the Tooth Fairy as a learning tool in their home,” said Jennifer Elliott, chief marketing officer for Delta Dental Plans Association, in a press release. “Parents share that the Tooth Fairy is delivering so much more than a tangible gift for a lost tooth, such as teaching our next generation about proper oral health habits and personal financial responsibility in a memorable way.”

In separate research by, a national poll of 1,700 US parents found that children in Delaware collect the most at $4.4 per Tooth Fairy visit. Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming parents also gave more than $4, according to the poll.

New York parents pay $3.50 per tooth, according to the poll.

The tooth fairy economy, explained

When Lydia’s daughter began losing her baby teeth, Lydia decided that instead of dollar bills, she’d leave gold dollar coins under her pillow — three coins per tooth. That seemed like a touch of tooth fairy whimsy that wouldn’t be too much work. But after a few years of this tradition, when her daughter got a loose tooth at Disneyland, Lydia panicked. Their family was staying on the resort; it was after banking hours. “We asked every vendor, shopkeeper, and hotel desk person at the place if they had even one of those gold coins,” Lydia recalls, “and the answer across the board was no.”

Fortunately, the loose tooth dangled until the family got home and the tooth fairy could run to the bank. But for a few hours, Lydia was afraid a currency mix-up might give the game away.

Lydia’s level of commitment is impressive, but not out of the ordinary. American parents put a lot of time, effort, and, of course, money into convincing children the Tooth Fairy is real. In 1998, Delta Dental, the largest dental insurer in the US, began conducting an annual nationwide poll to determine how much money children received from the tooth fairy. The first year of the poll recorded the average per-tooth compensation at $1.30. This year, the Original Tooth Fairy Poll, conducted by Kelton Global on behalf of Delta Dental, collected data from a nationally representative sample of 1,058. The results indicated that the tooth fairy leaves an average of $3.70 per tooth in the US, declining for the second year in a row after peaking above $4.50 in 2017.

Although the price of a tooth has risen faster than inflation since 1998, the average under-the-pillow payout is a fairly reliable indicator of the S&P 500, the index most financial experts use to track the health of the US economy and stock market. NPR’s Planet Money theorizes that the increase in tooth price over inflation is because when funds are more available, spending tends to increase disproportionately in the areas that people value most, such as creating treasured memories for one’s children.

Delta doesn’t track which parent in two-parent households is most often responsible for tooth compensation, but it seems reasonable to assume that, like most of the mental work — noticing, remembering, planning — of parenting, this job is disproportionately handled by mothers. When I asked around for tooth-related anecdotes, almost everyone who responded was a woman. And while Delta reports that the tooth fairy tradition is a source of joy in more than half the families surveyed, many parents say it’s also a source of stress — not just the cumulative financial investment but also the pressure to create magical childhood memories overnight, again and again.

How did the tooth fairy tradition begin?

Although cultures around the world have traditions for marking a child’s lost tooth, the tooth fairy is a relatively recent and specifically American myth. Various peoples from Asia to Central America have a practice of leaving a lost tooth as an offering for some kind of animal in exchange for a healthy new one. Historians believe the American tooth fairy may have been inspired by this tradition, combined with European folklore about good fairies giving gifts or granting wishes.

While the earliest written reference to the tooth fairy is from a children’s play of the same name in 1927, the character didn’t achieve ubiquity until the mid-20th century, assisted, according to folklorist Tad Tuleja, by a thriving economy, a renewed romanticization of childhood, and the popularity of good fairies in the media (such as Disney movies).

The Tooth Fairy Poll indicates that in many families, the first tooth a child loses is a cause for special celebration and special remuneration; the average payout for that tooth is $4.96. But for some parents, going to great lengths to celebrate the milestone loss creates expectations that may be difficult to meet in the future.

The tooth fairy doesn’t require as much elaborate setup as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, but she’s a much more frequent visitor, at least during the years between ages 6 and 12, when baby teeth are lost and adult teeth grow in. Parenting expert Susan Newman, author of Little Things Long Remembered, says that traditions like the tooth fairy can contribute to the lasting strength of a parent-child bond. “What you’re doing is building a child’s memory bank with warm recollections of growing up,” she explains.

But she also cautions against getting too caught up in the social media-fueled rush to go over the top at all times: “My main message to parents is whatever expectations you have, lower them.” Parents can have fun being creative with their tooth fairy routines, but the self-imposed pressure to go above and beyond the classic dollar under the pillow is part of a larger pattern of overwhelming parenting expectations. The impetus to curate a perfect, magical childhood (with the corresponding “or else” implied) means that parents are always striving to outdo each other or themselves, with no room to relax.

For parents of more than one child, the tooth fairy years can stretch on interminably, but even only children can demand a lot of energy. It can be a short journey from children losing teeth to parents losing their grip.

Gina, whose daughter is now in college, remembers, “I really screwed myself by writing a note from the tooth fairy the first time.” Delta Dental encourages this tradition, even providing a template tooth fairy letter with reminders to brush regularly and avoid sugar. But what seems like a cute, magical touch on the first tooth can become onerous by the fourth — or 14th. “It was the bane of our existence,” says Gina. “My daughter never forgot!”

Katrina gives her 6- and 8-year-olds an almost retro dollar per tooth, but she origamis the dollar bills into different shapes each time, like a rabbit when her eldest lost a tooth close to Easter. Her kids love it, and remember specific dollar animals long after the tooth fairy has come and gone, but she sometimes wishes she hadn’t yoked herself to such a labor-intensive tradition — especially “at 10 pm as I’m wrestling with a crummy dollar,” she says. Still, Katrina plans to continue the origami art for her youngest child, now 3.

When Risa’s son lost a tooth on a family trip to Maine, she forgot about the tooth fairy in all the extra demands of traveling. She explained the missed pickup with an improvised story about Maine’s local tooth collector, the “tooth lobster,” adding that “because he lost his tooth so late in the day, the tooth fairy hadn’t had a chance to let the tooth lobster know that we were in town.” The next night she replaced his tooth with the appropriate payment, along with a note from the lobster and a sprinkling of seaweed.

What’s the point of the tooth fairy?

The tooth fairy has grown from a character in a minor, otherwise forgotten play to a nationwide mascot of childhood delight as well as dental health. But why? What does the tooth fairy want with our children’s teeth, and what do we want with her?

Baby teeth are a unique commodity in that supply and demand are always, somehow, perfectly balanced; the tooth fairy buys exactly as many as are available. Parents have come up with all sorts of explanations over the years for what she does with them. As you might expect from a children’s story about deciduous body parts, these accounts are a strange mix of whimsical and grotesque.

Some parents (and dentists) use the tooth fairy to encourage good dental habits in children. A common addition to the mythology is that the fairy only wants teeth in excellent condition, and pays out less for teeth with cavities, although I’ve yet to hear of her actually rejecting any teeth. (Some parents also tell children the tooth fairy can’t navigate a messy room to deliver her payment.) Delta Dental’s version of the character is along these lines, reminding children that “I only use the cleanest, healthiest teeth to build my pearly white palace.”

In addition to building materials, some homespun stories have the fairy using discarded teeth for piano keys, or placing them in the mouths of newborn babies. Others say the fairy needs the teeth for scientific research — and indeed, scientists at Washington University asked children to send in their lost baby teeth throughout the 1960s for a study on strontium-90 levels and cancer risks. Participants received a button announcing “I Gave My Tooth to Science.”

Tuleja suggested that the tooth fairy’s purpose is to teach children about “monetization and the free market,” but she may address a deeper need as well. Losing baby teeth can be stressful, the formerly strong and dependable body part becoming unstable and then falling out altogether. Rosemary Wells, the founder and curator of the now-defunct Tooth Fairy Museum, thought that belief in a magical being who needed those teeth for her own puckish reasons served to comfort children.

Of course, not all kids find the idea of a tooth-collecting pixie endearing. Rachel’s daughters write notes to the tooth fairy asking her to leave their teeth behind, along with the coin she gives them. “They usually keep them in a little special box,” says Rachel, “but I have found them in various places around the house.”

Some families are abandoning the tooth fairy altogether

In the era of intensive parenting, parents have to let some things fall by the wayside for the sake of their own sanity. Some families, whether out of financial strictures or simple lack of interest, are giving up the tooth fairy tradition or not introducing it at all.

Emily had difficulty remembering to leave payments, and it didn’t help that she was pregnant — and nauseated — at the same time her oldest child began losing teeth. “Even when my kid was just wiggling her tooth, it made me want to throw up,” she says. “I finally gave up.” Emily’s youngest is now approaching the age of tooth loss, and Emily says she probably won’t do the tooth fairy with her at all.

Sara’s son had to have his two front teeth pulled when he was 4 years old. “It was kind of nasty and traumatic for us, so the tooth fairy didn’t even enter my mind,” she says. After that experience, ceremonializing future lost teeth seemed unnecessary.

Holly marked her 7-year-old son’s first lost tooth with an outing to the beach, and she plans to let him choose small treats or family activities for future teeth. “It’s a family celebration of a milestone, which feels more natural to me,” she says.

Still, as much stress and frustration as the tooth fairy can cause, many families continue working hard to keep the belief alive. Today, that add the fairy to photographs as proof for skeptical children, or call her and leave a voicemail. If Tad Tuleja was right that the tooth fairy exists to teach kids about capitalism, there are plenty of adults learning from her example as well. But monetizing childhood magic isn’t all the fairy does. Parents don’t have to go completely over the top to create unique tooth fairy memories for their children.

Meredith forgot to switch her daughter’s teeth for money on more than one occasion, but instead of confessing the sprite was a myth, she told her that their tooth fairy was an underperformer at work.

“I would have to pretend to be disappointed and tell her that I would email the tooth fairy’s supervisor,” she remembers. “After it happened a couple of times, she would just say, ‘Mom, you need to email them again about the tooth fairy.’”

It’s such a cute milestone, but it’s definitely still confusing for parents. From how many teeth your child has and how many will fall out to what’s the going rate for the Tooth Fairy, it’s an on-going debate in households across North America.

It seems The Tooth Fairy acts differently in each household. Every day, people on social media ask about the etiquette of the Tooth Fairy and how she works her magic. So, without further ado, here is A Beginner’s Guide to the Tooth Fairy.

How many teeth do children have?

According to, children have 20 baby teeth: ten on the top and 10 on the bottom. Often parents don’t realize that it can take years—years!—for all the baby teeth to fall out. Again, there are 20 of them, which means a lot of late night visits from the Tooth Fairy. Which is also why you should be careful about how much you leave under that pillow for that first lost tooth. You don’t want to set the bar too high! Sure, you may be excited. But you don’t want your kid to think that that they’ll automatically receive 20 dollars for each and every tooth, just because you only had a twenty on you on the night they lost their first one.

If children lose 20 teeth, and you pay them $20 a tooth, that will set you—rather, the Tooth Fairy—back $400 over the years! If you only have a $20, make sure your kid knows that it’s only for the first lost tooth and that the Tooth Fairy needs to start being a little cheaper for following teeth. After all, there are so many children and only ONE Tooth Fairy! (Or so I told my children.)

At What Age Do Children Start Losing Baby Teeth?

According to the Mayo Clinic, children’s baby teeth (also called primary teeth) begin to loosen and fall out to make room for permanent teeth at around age six or seven. However, there are children who lose teeth as early as three and as late as age eight. The first baby teeth to fall out are usually the two bottom front teeth and the two top front teeth. Molars generally fall out between ages 9 and 12 and are replaced by permanent teeth by about age 14. So, again, the Tooth Fairy can stick around for years! But, oh, those toothless children are so cute. Enjoy it, because what comes next are probably braces…and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t chip in for that cost.

Is the Tooth Fairy Real?

YES! (Or, so it appears). The Tooth Fairy may even be more popular than Santa and the Easter Bunny. In a Delta dental poll, the Tooth Fairy visited 81 percent of homes in America after children lost a tooth. Visits from the Tooth Fairy will outnumber combined visits from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, at least while your children are still ‘believers.’ (And, trust me, kids will at least pretend to believe in the Tooth Fairy for as long as possible, because the Tooth Fairy brings money!)

How Much Should The Tooth Fairy Leave?

This is one of the more difficult questions to answer. Everyone has a different opinion. Not surprising to find that the amount The Tooth Fairy leaves largely depends on what the parents have on hand. In the Delta Dental Survey, 44 per cent of those interviewed said the ‘amount of spare cash they had determined the size of the monetary gift’. With the advent of bank cards and e-commerce, many parents don’t even carry cash anymore. This is why I gave my daughter $20 for her first tooth, as it was all the cash I had on me and I had no clue what the going rate for the Tooth Fairy was. The great thing about kids losing their teeth around ages 6 or 7, is that they don’t really comprehend the importance of money and they can’t really do a lot of complicated math. Why else would they tend to prefer four loonies instead of a twenty dollar bill? (Enjoy this while it lasts!)

Tooth Fairy By the Numbers

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. Interestingly, the Tooth Fairy must read the business pages, because the Tooth Fairy’s ‘generosity has historically been a good indicator of the economy.’ Who knew? Maybe some politicians should take a look at the Tooth Fairy poll!

What To Do If You Lose the Tooth Before the Tooth Fairy Comes

Some kids lose their tooth at school, at an activity, at a playdate. My daughter actually swallowed one of her super wiggly teeth while eating. But still—the Tooth Fairy knows all. Just have your child leave a note for the Tooth Fairy, telling them what happened. In fact, there’s a recent heartwarming story about a boy who lost his tooth at school and was so upset when he lost it. The principal wrote a letter, on official school letterhead, that read, “Dear Tooth Fairy, Andrew lost his tooth at school today. Please accept this letter to vouch for him as he will put it under his pillow. I know Andrew well and say that he is a fine young man. Andrew cannot find his tooth, but I assure you it is gone.” So sweet. Everyone loves the Tooth Fairy!

Is the Tooth Fairy Forgetful?

Yes! Yes she is! Unlike Santa or the Easter Bunny, who have specific days to visit, The Tooth Fairy has to remember to visit all the children…20 times, over the course of their young lives. So of course she can be forgetful…or just really, really lazy and doesn’t want to leave the house at 10 pm at night to get to an ATM. According to the Original Tooth Fairy Poll, the Tooth Fairy has forgotten to visit 35% of homes at some point. Your child will lose a tooth on a random Tuesday—the same night that your kids have dance and basketball practice. Then you have to help with homework. And you still have to do the dishes. As one parent told me, “Trying to remember something at 10 pm… Who can even do that?” This may be one of the most common #parentingfails. But at least you’re not alone!

Tooth Loot

If your child doesn’t care about money, there are other ways to reward your kids for losing a tooth that won’t break the Tooth Fairy bank. Baskets full of goodies aren’t just for the Easter Bunny. Make a Tooth Fairy basket full of your kids’ favourite toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste and dental hygiene books. In this funny article, the author writes, ‘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.’ (HA!) In any case, I have left notes from the Tooth Fairy, telling my daughter how awesome she is. I’ll put the letter in an envelope, along with a lot of sparkles, so when my daughter opened the letter (which was also sealed with a kiss) it was much more exciting. I mean, of course the Tooth Fairy leaves behind fairy dust!

A New Way So The Tooth Fairy Doesn’t get Caught in the Act!

I thought this writer had a pretty brilliant idea, for all of you who can’t stay up late enough to make sure your kid is dead asleep before you have to sneak in the room and somehow manage to get under that pillow without waking your little one. The author writes, ‘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.’

How generous is the Tooth Fairy in your home? Has she ever been forgetful?

Tagged under: teeth,kid’s tooth care,tooth fairy,tooth fairy rate,tooth,losing teeth,getting ready for the tooth fairy,children and the tooth fairy,how to be the tooth fairy,writing the tooth fairy a letter,waiting for teeth to fall out

Category: parenting


Viva with her heirloom tooth pillow and the generous first tooth payout common to 21st-century American kids.

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.

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe (free!) to The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud, or visit

You can find the Dads on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and on Twitter at @thedadtest or email them at [email protected]

Call The Paternity Test on their hotline: (657) BAD DADS and leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast!

We’ve all been there. Your little one is super excited because they lost their first tooth and tonight the Tooth Fairy comes! As excited as you would like to be, instead you have a lump in your throat. You know something that your precious child doesn’t: The Tooth Fairy isn’t exactly flush with cash right now.

Back in the day, say 40 years ago, this wasn’t such a big deal–a kid would flash a bright, gappy grin for about a quarter. But now, some kids awake to find as much as five to ten dollars under their pillow! According to Delta Dental, who has been tracking Tooth Fairy payouts across the nation for about 20 years, the national average is dropping but still ranges from $2.97 to $4.19 depending on where you live. (The Tooth Fairy would not comment on this disparity, but we suspect it may have something to do with cost of living.)

Whatever the reason may be for the Tooth Fairy’s empty pockets, there’s no reason to wake up to a disappointed kiddo. We’ve got some great ways to be sure the Tooth Fairy has a little something to slip under their pillow.

  1. First off, since we work for the Tooth Fairy, we can tell you that oral hygiene is of utmost importance to her. Not to say the tooth has to be perfect, but rather, this is an excellent opportunity to teach your child about the importance of keeping their teeth healthy (but you’ve been doing that since their first tooth appeared, right?) Let them know that the Tooth Fairy expects them to brush two times each day and floss between teeth every day too. This would also be a great time to give your child a new toothbrush! (They should be replaced every three months or after your child gets sick anyway.)
  2. If your little angel just lost their first tooth, this is your chance to skip the money altogether! The Tooth Fairy can give a practical gift: a small container to hold future teeth so she can find them under their pillow easily. This DIY project just needs a little imagination and creativity. Look around for any small container: mint tins, small pill bottles, a tiny velvet jewelry box, even a used up tube of lip balm! You could also use (or make) a small fabric pouch. Get crafty with paint, fabric, little plastic gems or stickers, but make it look special. Include a small note from the Tooth Fairy inside the container explaining what it’s for. Scroll to the bottom of this post for ideas or explore Pinterest for inspiration.
    Then, with each lost tooth your child can leave a note to the Tooth Fairy in the container, and she can leave them a note, or a small gift, coins–whatever fits inside the container. If your child enjoys jokes, she could leave a tooth-related joke each time. Here are a few to get you started.
    If you’re good with the sewing machine (or fabric glue,) another option is to make a special Tooth Fairy pillow with a small pocket to put the tooth in. Here’s a how-to video.
  3. Are you handy with paper? Write a special teeny tiny note from the Tooth Fairy. Use nice paper, unique folds, colored ink, stickers or–dare we say it–glitter to make the note extra special. If you’re not handy with paper check out this free downloadable template that can be used to swap notes with the Tooth Fairy.
  4. If you have some time to prepare (those teeth can be wiggly for quite a while) save up a secret stash of small, inexpensive toys, sticker sheets, school supplies, and Dollar Store trinkets. While not free, these inexpensive gifts can be more special than cash because they’re from the Tooth Fairy. It’s all about the presentation! With a little glitter and Barbie doll shoes, you can make these small gifts even more fun! Sprinkle the glitter near a window sill or by your child’s nightstand. Then use the doll shoes (or the tip of your finger) to make “footprints” in the trail of glitter!
  5. Download free activity sheets from America’s ToothFairy, print them and slip them with a note under your child’s pillow.
  6. As a last resort, the Tooth Fairy could bring sugar-free gum or a lollipop–some even come with Xylitol, an ingredient that helps protect teeth! Tie it with a pretty ribbon or switch out the wrapper with pretty foil paper to make it seem extra special. If you don’t have any sugar-free options, this is another opportunity to teach your child about proper oral health. When the Tooth Fairy includes a note to let them know they should always brush after sugary treats, they’re much more likely to listen!

This lollipop was decorated with a foil candy wrapper, gold string, beads from a toy jewelry kit, and an old greeting card cut to make the tag. Cost: 7 cents (for the lollipop in a bag of 44, which cost $3.19).

A visit from the Tooth Fairy doesn’t need to be an expensive one. It can be a creative way to teach kids about how to take care of their smiles, encourage good oral hygiene habits, and have fun with your child while they’re still young enough to believe in someone magical!

(These ideas were inspired by a little boy who asked why the Tooth Fairy hates him, because she never came to his house. Read more about that here.)

Want more great ways to teach your child about staying healthy? Sign up for ToothFairy Tips, our free quarterly newsletter for parents and caregivers.

• • • • • • • • • •


Your child can receive their own special container from the Tooth Fairy (or they can help make it, if you prefer) for little or no money. You’ll only need a bit of creativity. For these examples everything was made from materials we had on hand. We didn’t spend a penny.

First, find a small container. This will be used to leave the tooth for the Tooth Fairy, either under the pillow, on a nightstand or by the bedroom door (if your child doesn’t like the idea of the Tooth Fairy coming into their room.) You could even attach a ribbon to hang it from the doorknob, which is a nice visual reminder for the Tooth Fairy to remember to visit. Just be sure not to use anything that will break easily, like glass. Plastic, paper and metal work best. Here is what we found:

From left to right: a small gift box, a mint tin, lip balm tube, prescription bottle, spice container, gum container, small lucite box (this one was from an ipod nano,) velvet-lined gift box, clear plastic box.

Next, find supplies to decorate your container. Remember all that stuff you saved because you just knew you’d use it someday? Here’s your chance! We raided our gift wrap supplies, some old gift cards that we’ve saved, crafting supplies, sewing supplies, and even our stash of nail polishes to decorate our examples below. Remember, this is a gift that the Tooth Fairy made herself, so it’s okay if it looks homemade! Here is what we created in just a few hours:

This mint tin was transformed with only white spray paint, a silver ribbon, holographic paper that was cut from a used gift bag, and a puffy sticker left over from a school project. Using your child’s initial or monogram is a fun way to make the box personal.

The only thing needed to make this simple lucite box into something special was glitter nail polish (painted on the inside of the box,) a strip of blue ribbon, beads from a bracelet making kit, a star cut from a greeting card, cotton balls and some silver ribbon cut into small pieces to make confetti. If you don’t have glitter or glittery nail polish on hand, you can make the same effect by lining the inside with pretty paper (used gift bags, wrapping paper and tin foil work well too.)

Who knew a prescription bottle could be made into something so cute?! (We did.) First, we used spray paint to disguise the bottle (any paint that can be used on plastic will work.) We especially like how the copper paint made the bottle look like a metal container, very masculine! To the white bottle we applied silver and copper glitter, a metallic ribbon and three butterfly appliqués that were attached to a greeting card. To the teal bottle cap we attached a strip of silver ribbon and a sparkly bead. We wrapped the copper bottle with kitchen twine and a strip of paper from a greeting card, then glued on buttons and shell-shaped beads (real shells would work too!)

This black gift box is fun because it includes a velvet insert that can be popped out. Underneath is a paper slot where a “secret” note to/from the Tooth Fairy could be inserted! We glued two blue satin ribbons to the top, then added a monogram with beads and stuck on insects cut from a greeting card. Old children’s books would also be a great place to find cute illustrations to cut out and apply. Or raid your child’s stash of stickers.

We saved the best idea for last! This tube of Chapstick was transformed into a cute vessel to hold notes to and from the Tooth Fairy with a little ingenuity! First, we popped off the bottom, removed the stick that winds the lip balm up the tube, and snapped the bottom back in place. (Make sure to wipe out any left-over lip balm was well.) Then we simply wrote “Notes from the Tooth Fairy” on a piece of paper and attached it to the tube. We added glitter and tiny gems we found on a duck keychain ring (that had been thrown in the trash!) Finally, we added a decorative button to the cap. Insert a tiny, rolled note from the Tooth Fairy to explain what the tube is for and you’re good to go!

What fun ideas can you come up with? Each Tooth Fairy container is unique and special and will be cherished for a very long time! Make one for child and be sure to share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag America’s ToothFairy!

How much does the tooth fairy pay?

$100 – with a note attached that reads “I’m coming back tomorrow for the rest!”
$5 max!
Who invents this stuff anyway.
My wife was Ninja! Our kids were light sleepers and always seemed to set traps for anyone trying to gain access to their teeth. I would crawl military style on the floor taking an hour to cross the room, only to scare them awake. While I was complaining about muscles seizing and rug burn – my wife would walk in and be out 3 seconds later with the tooth in hand.
One of our tricks was to place the tooth in a ziplock bag. It makes it harder to lose and easier to find.
I remember one time when our daughter lost a tooth while we were on a family ski vacation. We told her to place the tooth under her pillow at bed time and she was stoked because all the other kids were jealous. We, the fairies (parents) then proceeded to get drunk with some of the other parents. We woke up in the latter part of the morning to a very upset daughter who was holding a tooth in a ziplock! WE FORGOT!!!! We had to think fast and explain that it the tooth fairy probably went to our house and didn’t know we were on vacation. We had to double down the next night!
Speaking of imaginary characters that resemble parents, It’s 12:01 am October 31st – Halloween and my kids reminded me how terrible we were years ago when we introduced them to the concept of “The Pumpkin Man”. The legend goes that the day after Halloween, kids are told to select 5 candies and place the rest under their bed. Then the Pumpkin Man would come around at night and collect the bags leaving $10 in their place. In hindsight now they’re calling BullShit!