The tooth fairy is a rite of passage for most of us whereby – as children – we get a financial reward for each baby tooth that falls out. It can be a fun tradition for families to enjoy with children – as long as we still remember just how important it is to look after baby teeth.
Tooth fairy stats
Around 15 million deciduous teeth fall out every year and with, on average, each tooth being worth roughly £1.58, the tooth fairy is big business for UK children. In fact, a new nationwide survey found that British children receive £24 million a year from the tooth fairy, an increase of just over 43% on the total amount for 2011. However, although losing a baby tooth might seem like a great way to earn some pocket money, the health of that tooth is something that both children and parents need to take seriously.
The importance of looking after baby teeth
Many people assume that, as baby teeth fall out, it doesn’t really matter whether they are healthy or not. However, the reality is that many children don’t even get to the stage of naturally losing a tooth today. According to the Local Government Association, there were nearly 43,000 tooth extractions in the last year – which is an increase of a fifth on the figures from four years ago. Teeth that fall out naturally are relatively painless to lose. However, those that have to be extracted require general anaesthetic, which can be tough for a child’s body and take a while to recover from.
There are two key reasons for losing baby teeth before they are ready to come out:
- Poor diet. Children who have a poor diet, for example one that is high in sugar or low in water content, may have more cavities than healthier children, resulting in the need for more extractions.
- A lack of an oral care routine. It’s difficult to get children to regularly brush their teeth and even harder as, at that age, kids just have no understanding of the impact of tooth decay. However, a regular oral healthcare routine is essential to avoid early extractions.
How to make the tooth fairy a friend to you, as well as your kids
- A tooth fairy who leaves notes. Your tooth fairy’s interactions with your child don’t have to be limited to payment for baby teeth. You could also help to get your child into healthy oral routines with notes from the tooth fairy encouraging them to brush regularly if they want to get that reward when the tooth eventually does go.
- Somewhere to keep lost teeth. Children tend to lose most of their teeth between the ages of five and seven and several can fall out within a short space of time. You may want to provide children with a tooth chest or a box in which to keep lost teeth safe until the tooth fairy is able to get to them.
- Making a visit to the dentist easier. If a tooth has been removed as part of a procedure or had to be “wiggled out” at the dentist then the tooth fairy can be used to help soothe a tough situation. As well as a reward for the tooth lost, an encouraging note could be left so that the child doesn’t then go on to associate a dentist visit with something unpleasant and unrewarded.
- What happens if there is no tooth? Teeth don’t tend to fall out at convenient times and sometimes may be lost forever. In that situation, your kids could write a letter of explanation and a generous tooth fairy will need to take them at their word.
The tooth fairy is a great tradition and one that is widespread in the UK. However, it’s also important to remember how crucial it is to ensure that children value, and look after, their baby teeth – as well as looking forward to losing them.