Lost teeth are a cause for celebration, at least for kids. For parents, a frantic search for whatever cash is on hand makes the whole thing a bit more of a farce. Do you expand the story to reveal that the tooth fairy only works certain days of the week? Explain the details of an IOU? And finally, how much cash are you expected to scrounge up?
According to the experts at Delta Dental, who have been studying tooth-fairy payouts for more than 20 years, the average gift is now up to $4.70 per tooth. That was calculated in 2021, pre-inflation of course, so we’re betting it’s more of an even $5 these days.
For confirmation I turned to my brother, knowing my 8-year-old niece, Sara, has been dropping teeth left and right lately. “We give five dollars,” he texted me. “Last time, I think it was in quarters. And I think we took the quarters from her room.”
Regifting a child’s own money aside, let’s do the multiplication. Kids lose twenty baby teeth in total. Five dollars, twenty times, is a nice hundred bucks that kids can make between about age 6, when the middle teeth usually go, and age 12, when the last of the molars tend to vacate the premises. Basically every five teeth, they can buy a 16-inch Squishmallow, which seems like an acceptable algorithm.
A quick check on Reddit showed that there is a range of what American kids are getting. A Reddit user named OasisGhost recently posted that classmates were getting “quarters, notes, glitter money, and even a $20 bill.” First, what is glitter money (and can you still spend it?), and second, there’s no keeping up the $20-a-tooth game is there? Are you really prepared to give each kid $400 for their twenty baby teeth?
Other Reddit users suggested my favorite solution: Slipping kids a $2 bill or a $1 coin. Kids under 10 are more likely to get excited about that big dollar coin than a $5 paper bill. In their elementary-school years, my kids, at least, were thrilled for them, because the coins were rare and special in that they only appeared from the tooth fairy. The angst, for me, was just getting ahold of them. Banks will trade them for dollar bills, but I usually just ran to my nearest subway-token machine and bought one ride with a large bill so that some dollar coins would come spilling out as change.
My kids were definitely going to hit me up to buy them Squishmallows-like things anyway, and grandma sends $5 bills for holidays. The dollar coins were special—if not as special-sounding as glitter money—and also let me skate out the teeth-losing years for just $20 a kid.