Economy woes hit the Tooth Fairy

Tooth Fairy
One vision of the Tooth Fairy

You know the economy is hurting when the Tooth Fairy cuts back. Oh, this beloved cuspid collector is still visiting children every night, she just isn’t paying as much for the teeth she’s collecting as she used to, according to a new survey from Visa Inc.

The Tooth Fairy visits 90 percent of American children under the age of 12. Most children have lost all their primary, or “baby” teeth by then, although some may not lose that last second molar until they are 13. The process begins around age 6 with the bottom front teeth and progresses for the next 6 or so years in the order in which the teeth came in the first place, according to the Alan Carr, D.M.D. of the Mayo Clinic.

This year the Tooth Fairy is leaving an average of $2.60 per tooth, according to Visa. That’s a 40 cent decrease from last year. Since humans have 20 baby teeth, that means the icon of magical munificence is spending roughly $52 per child over a six-year period at the current rate.

The steepest cuts are being seen in the Eastern U.S. where the Tooth Fairy is now leaving just $2.10 per tooth. That’s a 38 percent drop from the #3.40 being left in 2010. Children in Southern states are feeling a 21 percent cut to $2.60 in 2011 from $3.30 in 2010. Midwestern children will barely notice the decline of a dime or 3 percent to $2.80 in 2011.

In a rare ray of economic sunshine, children in Western states bucked the national trend and received a 4 percent increase. They pocketed $2.80, just like the kids in the Midwest for western kids that was up from $2.70 in 2010.

Not all teeth are created equal and it is just where a child lives that makes a difference. Only 18 percent of children receive between $2 and $4 in exchange for shed teeth. And while another 18 percent rake in $5, 29 percent receive exactly $1. Seven percent get less than $1.

Sadly, the cuspid collector also appears to be cutting travel expenses because 10 of American children receive no money from the Tooth Fairy. That’s up from 6 percent in 2010.

The loss of primary teeth, which are also referred to as milk teeth, is an important rite of passage in many cultures around the globe. The Tooth Fairy, however, appears to be of 20th century American origin. To be sure, there are some similarities with Norse, Irish and Italian folk tales that are centuries even millenia old. But when it comes to the Tooth Fairy, her or himself, the icon is as American as Captain American although slightly older, the Tooth Fairy having first appeared around 1900. More recently, the Real Tooth Fairies have raised their profile and given children, especially girls, a glimpse into their world online. Interestingly, they don’t live in castles made of shed teeth as some legends might have you believe.

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