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The Tooth Fairy’s Assistant

When Kids Lose a Tooth at School

School nurses manage emergencies, navigate contagious illness protocols, and deal with daily bumps and bruises, but for young children who lose a tooth at school, it’s school nurses’ “in” with the tooth fairy that can elevate them to hero status.


Did you know that the tooth fairy is a relatively recent addition to America’s folklore? There are various theories about her origins, from Venetian and French traditions to a French fairy tale reprinted in English in the 1920’s and 1940’s, but she didn’t really take hold as a part of American culture until after WWII. While she has been visiting homes for quite some time, according to a Forbes article, the tooth fairy was not even mentioned in any reference citations until 1979 when she first appeared in the World Book Encyclopedia.

The Going Rate

 Back in the 1940’s, most sources agree that children received a nickel or a dime for a lost tooth. According to NPR’s Planet Money, the tooth fairy’s average rate just over 20 years ago had risen to about $1.30. Delta Dental, a dental insurance company, has been polling people on the going rate for tooth fairies all over the world since 1998. Their most recent poll indicates that the average going rate has reached an all-time high of $4.70, with some lucky kids receiving as much as $20 for a lost tooth.

The Role of the Tooth Fairy

 For children, the best thing about the tooth fairy is, of course, that she leaves a gift, typically money, in exchange for a lost tooth. But she also helps children beyond this all-important financial gain. Children may fear that losing a tooth could be painful. Losing a tooth also signifies steps toward growing up, and, while some kids may be eager to be perceived as older, others may not feel ready to start leaving early childhood behind. Anticipating the tooth fairy’s visits and gifts can help children overcome any anxiety they may feel about losing a tooth.

The Role of the Assistant to the Tooth Fairy

When a child loses a tooth at school, what may seem like a minor occurrence to most adults can be an emotional roller coaster for a child. There is a certain badge of honor felt by children who lose a tooth at school, almost a sort of fame for a day. But at the same time, children who lose a tooth at school can also be concerned about any pain or bleeding caused by the tooth coming out. Children who lose a tooth at school can worry about making sure the tooth safely makes it home and under their pillow for the big exchange with the tooth fairy.

The job description of the assistant to the tooth fairy is fairly straightforward and, of course, familiar for school nurses:

  • Clean the area by having the child rinse with warm water, warm salt water or an antiseptic rinse.
  • If there is any pain, consider applying a topical anesthetic.
  • Losing a tooth is an exciting time for kids. Help them celebrate by giving them a sticker they can wear for the day.
  • Place the tooth in a special envelope or case for them to bring it home. Many children enjoy putting a lost tooth in a treasure chest or wearing it as a necklace.
  • Reassure any children who misplaced or swallowed their lost tooth that the tooth fairy typically still visits children even in these situations. If time allows, consider writing a short note to the tooth fairy for the child to place under their pillow. Consider offering any special case typically given out for lost teeth if supplies allow. Children often look forward to receiving and showing off these cases.


Celebrating Tooth Fairy Day and Dental Health Month

This February, celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day on February 28, and National Children’s Dental Health Month all month long. Sharing the tooth fairy’s preference to receive well-cared-for teeth can help motivate children to practice good dental hygiene. Consider using resources like the Take Care of Your Teeth DVD or the Make Way for Tooth Decay book to help children learn more about dental health. For additional dental health resources and supplies, like a dental health emergencies poster that covers lost baby and permanent teeth, mouth injuries and toothaches; the Red Cross Toothache Kit; and Oral Pain Relief, shop MacGill’s dental health products.

This National Tooth Fairy Day, MacGill thanks all the school nurses who serve as assistants to the tooth fairy for helping their students celebrate this important childhood milestone and for the many ways school nurses help children each and every day.



 “How Much Should the Tooth Fairy Leave,” Planet Money: NPR, 2 Apr. 2019, https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/02/708713839/video-how-much-money-should-the-tooth-fairy-leave.

 Killgrove, Kristina. “Where Did the Tooth Fairy Come From” Forbes, 14 Sept. 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2016/09/14/where-did-the-tooth-fairy-come-from/?sh=1ac4356f59d4.

 “The Original Tooth Fairy Poll.” Delta Dental, https://www.deltadental.com/us/en/tooth-fairy/the-original-poll.html.

 “Tooth Fairy Giving Reaches All-Time High.” Delta Dental, 23 Feb. 2021, https://www.deltadental.com/us/en/about-us/press-center/2021-press-releases/tooth-fairy-giving-reaches-an-all-time-high.html.

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