Breaking news: baby tooth falls out

The lost tooth

An almond sits next to the tooth - it really is that small

Breaking news. This is not a catastrophic world event, but it might as well be in my household. The Chatterbox has lost her first tooth tonight. This milestone in a child’s life had been building for about a week, with my five-year-old paranoid that she would swallow it while I was washing her hair in the bath. I tried my best to reassure her that swallowing it was very unlikely, but I felt like a liar because I’d read on the internet that this is apparently quite common. It presented me with one of those parental dilemmas that only get harder with age: when should you lie and when would it be kinder to tell the truth?

My brother’s tactic is to be brutally honest so, rather predictably, he had already scared the Chatterbox half to death with tales of swallowing his own teeth. I’m not even sure he actually remembers this, but he claims he does. Today, in the bath, I asked the Chatterbox to wiggle her tooth again, and I could tell it was hanging by the proverbial thread. I then took the decision to just take it out myself and it was surprisingly easy. That’s not to say my child was brave – the screams could probably be heard by our neighbors.

My initial reaction was one of surprise – I couldn’t believe how small it was. The second surprise is how hard it is to photograph a tooth. I tried several times, but it just looked like a tiny white blur against a myriad of different backgrounds. I finally settled on giving it some perspective against our Christmas tablecloth. I think it came out rather well.

Some facts you can sink your teeth into

Like any good hypochondriac , I immediately starting searching the internet for information about the average age for losing your teeth and where the tradition of the tooth fairy comes from. I guess you can reliably predict that a child will lose their first baby tooth between the ages of 5 to 7. Babies get 20 teeth in total and they will lose every single one; this is something I didn’t know, since I assumed the molars stayed (they don’t). I’ve also read that the first teeth to come in at about 8 to 12 months (usually the two bottom central incisors) are also the ones that tend to come out first. The Chatterbox’s tooth was one of these.

Tales about the tooth fairy are harder to pin down and there are many cultural variations, although I’m hardly an expert, and all of this was found on the internet – so, you know, it can be as reliable as bus timetables after midnight. In Mexico and Spain, it’s not a fairy which collects the teeth but a mouse called Ratoncito Perez. In Japan and Korea, they apparently throw the bottom teeth onto the roof of the house and the upper teeth underneath the home. In Vietnam, upper and lower teeth get thrown over the house. These traditions are derived from superstitions about growing healthy roots. In England there was a tradition of burning teeth, perhaps to ward off evil. If you burn your tooth, it’s impossible for a witch to get hold of it. Those Middle Ages – from which the tooth fairy might have her origins – were not great times for children, it would seem.

Visa conducts survey about tooth fairy

But perhaps the biggest surprise is that only a few months ago, Visa – yes, that would be the credit card company – conducted a survey about how much money the average American leaves for their children after they’ve lost a tooth. Just over 1000 American adults were surveyed and the average comes out at $2.60 per tooth, down from $3 last year. I guess the recession has even hit the tooth fairy. There are some regional variations, with people on the East Coast ‘marking the biggest decrease in per-tooth payouts’.

A bottom central incisor

The tooth looking lost all on its own

I’m still trying to understand why Visa would conduct this survey in the first place, but the creditor has very conveniently written a press release about when parents should have the ‘money conversation’ with their children – and this is apparently it. I’ve decided not to have the money conversation just yet. I’d prefer my child to believe in the tooth fairy for as long as possible. Some of the mystique disappears when you start talking about money and bank accounts.

PS I’m leaving $5, mostly at the urging of my mother. I think this is far too much but inflation is crazy these days. I fear the Raging Bull, my second child, might eventually get less when my spendthrift tendencies kick in.



Filed under motherhood

3 responses to “Breaking news: baby tooth falls out

  1. Dear Carla, I had to sign up for WordPress to leave a comment, thereby being sucked into the world of blogging.. yet another social media which I have been resisting… not because I’m not interested, but because it will consume even more of my time, when I really ought to be doing something else. Like now for example, I have a looming deadline, but here I am!

    Your tooth story was hilarious. Rohan has not yet lost any teeth. In fact I think he has a touch of what can only be expressed as ‘tooth-envy’ because his friend Arlo from school has lost 5 now. In fact yesterday Arlo was here for a ‘play-date’ (that phrase doesn’t come naturally to me, and I can only imagine that it was invented in Stoke Newington by the middle-class yummy-mummys in a coffee-shop brainstorm. It could have been worse – they could have called it ‘play-networking’).

    Anyway, back to Arlo… so before I knew he had his 6th wobbly tooth, which he reliably informed me would ‘fall out tonight’, I handed him a rather large gingerbread man as a post-school snack. He demolished it rather quickly, pausing occasionally to tell us how annoying his wobbly tooth was. Then as he was about to consume his last mouthful, he paused and a look of confusion fell over his face. His wobbly tooth was gone. Surely it must have fallen out onto the floor. I scrambled round furiously looking for this tooth. If this child didn’t get his spoils from the tooth fairy it would be on my head. Unfortunately my search revealed nothing more than a realisation that my kitchen floor was filthy and that I clearly hadn’t swept up since the kids had eaten chicken and couscous on Saturday. I pulled myself up off my hands and knees to break the news to Arlo. Now, if it had been Rohan we would have had tears and tantrums, and a promise that I would mould a tooth from Playdoh and paint it white with Tippex to try to fool the tooth fairy. But Arlo’s rather-too-casual reply was ‘Oh well, I’m not really that bothered’. I felt like shouting at him ‘You are 6 years old. What’s wrong with you? You’ve just swallowed your tooth! Show some emotion!’. I am 38 and if I had swallowed a tooth I would be distraught. But Arlo is obviously far more emotionally stable than I am. So, I asked Arlo more questions about the tooth fairy. Having not had any experience of her for many years I feel the need to gather information. Arlo told me that his mum and dad are ‘rubbish and forgetful’ and often don’t leave the tooth out for the fairy (I told him that he would probably find that most parents are ‘rubbish and forgetful’). When I enquired about the amount he receives from the tooth fairy he reliably informed me that he gets ‘one-pence’. No wonder he’s not bothered.

    So that’s the secret. Give your child a penny and the novelty will soon wear off. Any more than that and you’re making trouble for yourself. Oh and another tooth fact I discovered yesterday was that Arlo’s sister (who is 10 years old) is still losing her teeth. So we’re in this for the long term Carla. Factoring in inflation as it is at the moment I would think carefully about how much you give.

    I can still remember my dad tying my wobbly tooth to a door handle and slamming it. Bizzarely I was totally complicit in this. I was obviously desperate for the cash, and my dad was sick of hearing the moaning. I’m sure he would be arrested for such an act of violence these days. And the tooth was always left in a matchbox under the pillow, which was very easy to find given that my parents smoked 20 a day. But apart from that this is one area of life where little has changed!


    • Dear procrastinator, your lost tooth story really made me laugh. I can’t believe he couldn’t care whether he’d swallowed the tooth or not. A 6-year-old! After reading how much Arlo got, I am totally, totally convinced that I’ve given the Chatterbox far too much money. My only hope is that she is young enough to not properly remember how much I gave her when her second tooth falls out. By the way, I am a super-duper procrastinator if that’s any consolation. x

  2. April Wright

    I think both Sierra and Fallon got a dollar each for their first tooth and every tooth after that depending on how hard it was to get it out. Five dollars may have been what we gave them each for their last baby tooth so yeah you probably paid a little too much;)

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