Food & Culture

The Tooth Fairy Pays a Lot More Than She Used To

Our editors delve into Curiosity's top stories every day on a podcast that's shorter than your commute. Click here to listen and learn — in just a few minutes!

Every kid knows how the tooth fairy works. When one of your teeth gets loose, it's time to start wiggling it until it finally falls out about two to four weeks later. Then, you show off to the family, put it under your pillow, and wake up in the morning 50 cents richer. Or is it a dollar these days? Two? Three? Not even the tooth fairy is immune to the forces of inflation. Be warned — this article includes some hard truths about the tooth fairy.

Putting Money Where Your Mouth Is

According to a survey of baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers, the average amount of money slipped under the pillow by (spoiler alert) parents pretending to be the tooth fairy has varied over time. The report was put together by LendEdu, who found that people older than 53 made about 69 cents per tooth, those in the 39- to 53-year range got $1.39, 24- to 38-year-olds earned about $2.13, and the 6-and-older set currently losing teeth is raking in an average of $3.25 for every chomper.

LendEdu isn't the only organization that went looking for the cold, hard facts about the tooth fairy. Actually, Delta Dental proudly claims that they're the only who has been "tracking the rate since '98." They're logging the current value of a tooth as $4.13, and they've noticed that this is not the highest value of teeth on the market (LendEdu made a similar observation). They've seen it spike up to and beyond $4.50 in the past — but perhaps more interestingly, they've been able to track how closely it follows the S&P 500. It's a pretty close match, although 2018 was an outlier with tooth values decreasing despite upward trends in the market. It might not be an exact science, but the correlation is clear.

There's one other factor you'll need to consider for putting a cash value on your child's tooth: location. As you might expect, teeth earn kids more money in urban areas, where cost of living tends to be higher. According to a 2015 survey by Sunstar GUM, a missing molar in Manhattan could easily pull in $13.25, while up in Boston it would be worth a measly $5.02.

The Magic of Inflation

Remember how we said about the tooth fairy has had to keep up with inflation? Well, that's actually not entirely true. The actual amount of money left behind under pillows might have gone up, but it's been slipping further and further when you compare that rate to the inflation rate over time. 69 cents went a long way two generations ago — these days, it would be worth about $5.77. That gradual dip down is consistent over generations, too. The $1.39 earned by Gen-X kids is equal to about $5.54. Millennial mouths made a comparative $3.72 when accounting for inflation, making them the closest to the current generation's $3.25.

For a more adult perspective on dental health over time in the United States, check out "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America" by health journalist Mary Otto. It's free with your trial membership to Audible.com. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Why Do We Have Baby Teeth?

Share the knowledge!
Written by Reuben Westmaas June 11, 2018

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.