Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 9, 2012

Random Thoughts: Tooth Fairy faces rising costs

By Dorothy Copus Brush
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The Tooth Fairy must have hired a press agent because a number of items have appeared this month about that sweet fantasy. It all started when Visa did a survey on the going price of kids’ lost teeth. The average going rate for a lost tooth today is $3! It has been many years since I replaced a tooth tucked under a pillow with a coin. Yes, I did say coin because in those long ago days it was coins, not bills.

This survey brought warnings from child psychologists that excessive monetary rewards would give a child the wrong view of the value of things. There is a TV commercial presently that sends that very message. A young woman finds problems with her computer and immediately tells her dad, “Let’s go get a new one.” The wise dad shows her the problem can be fixed very simply.

Teachers also added another problem. They said it was common for children to boast about the price their lost tooth brought. This was repeated at home and soon the exercise became a game for parents trying to outdo each other.

One mother of an adult son wrote Dear Abby asking her advice on what she, the Tooth Fairy, should do with all his baby teeth she had saved these many years. Abby suggested making them into a charm bracelet, sell them back to son or put the teeth, a curl of hair and his baby shoes in a box to be opened much later.

Last week the Tooth Fairy was featured in a USA Snapshot. A graph showed that in 2000 the average gift was $1.48 and by 2011 it had risen to $2.10. Now, in one year ,it has gone up to $3.  Someone researched the prices paid in the period from 1900 to 1980 and found the amounts kept up with inflation. What does that say about the effect of the economy on citizens?

Lost teeth in youngsters has been of interest since ancient times and different cultures observed the event in different ways. The tooth might be thrown into the sky, buried, burned, hidden, even swallowed.

Eventually both a mouse and or a fairy entered the scene. In the l8th century, different countries introduced these characters. A French tale told of a fairy that turned into a “tooth mouse” to help a good queen fight an evil king. The mouse hides under the king’s pillow and bothers him. Finally the mouse is victorious by knocking out all the king’s teeth.     

Just why lost teeth became so interesting very early remains a question. At one time, while people believed in witches, it was believed witches used pieces of human bodies to direct their magic or curses at specific people. Thus the effort to quickly dispose of such things as fingernails, hair or teeth.

Later it was recognized that losing teeth was a normal part of “growing up” for youngsters around the ages of five to ten. This rite of passage could be painful and distressing, so began the myth of the Tooth Fairy and a gift.

Much later in life, the loss of teeth enters the picture once more. In this scenario it is the aging person who pays to have the tooth or teeth removed and then replaced. 

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Dorothy Copus Brush is a Fairfield Glade resident and Crossville Chronicle staffwriter whose column is published each Wednesday. She may be reached at dcb1@frontiernet.net.