Can the Tooth Fairy Predict the Economy?

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A dental insurer believes "the value of a lost tooth is closely related to the U.S. economy." But the going rate for lost baby teeth dropped 42 cents in the past year. Maybe the tooth fairy expects another recession?

Here’s an economic indicator you probably never thought about: the tooth fairy.

For more than a decade, a dental coverage network called Delta Dental has been surveying families about their visits from the famous collector of baby teeth. And they’ve found something to chew on…

The going rate for a tooth has tracked with the stock market seven years out of the last 10.

The graph below compares the value of tiny teeth versus the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The latest results show the tooth fairy was hit harder than the average investor last year. Delta Dental says the payout for a tooth lost in 2011 was an average of $2.10, down from $2.52 in 2010. That’s a 17 percent decline and close to the 2009 average.

Nonetheless, there’s something to smile about: She still visits 90 percent of homes, giving anywhere from $1 (the most common amount) up to $100.

And hey, if we’re going to swallow a comparison of teeth to stocks, the little ones beat some big ones in 2011, according to CNN’s list of worst performers from the Fortune 500. For instance, the Yellow Roadway Corp. dropped 99 percent and “traded as low as 3 cents a share later in the year.” A kid could’ve cashed in his 20 “shares” of baby teeth (worth $42 in 2011) and bought 1,400 shares of YRCW at its low point. (And yes, children get 20 baby teeth in total, says the American Dental Association.)

Pricier than a mouthful of lost baby teeth might be a couple of trips to the dentist – a more realistic scenario, given that a third of parents allow their kids too many sugary drinks, according to the poll. Fortunately, Delta Dental notes, “90 percent of those surveyed say they take their children to the dentist every six months.”

Looking for something with fewer flights of fancy and a little more bite? Try 4 Ways to Save at the Dentist and Is Dental Insurance Worth It?

Stacy Johnson

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