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the tooth fairy
the myth, the legend, the conspiracy
by erik lars myers (@TopFermented)

After all these years, I still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

One of my colleagues tells me about his daughters: they're 6 and 9. He tells me that every time one of them loses a tooth that he has to come up with something bigger and better to leave under their pillow. They write notes to the Tooth Fairy, and tell them what they'd like for a gift (usually something small like stickers for their sticker books) and he goes out and gets it, along with a few dollar coins, and leaves it for his daughters underneath their pillow or next to their bed.

So, there we have it -- the myth has been debunked.

When I was in my teens, my mother sent me into her jewlery box to go get her earrings because we were in a rush to get out of the house for some familial affair or other, and I found a little red plastic treasure chest in one of the drawers, and inside were most of my baby teeth. It seemed like an odd place to keep them, as if she were going to make a necklace out of them or something. I remember my first reaction as being a little grossed out, and then having the normal teenage reaction of, "Awww, geez, Mom -- why do you hang on to stuff like this?" It's worse than baby pictures! Imagine bringing your girlfriend home and having your mom say, "And these are his baby teeth! Aren't they cute?!" That's soooo un-cool, Mom.

Now that I look back on it, though, I feel a little scandalized. The poor Tooth Fairy, being kept from her life's work by mothers with little red plastic treasure chests! I secretly think that it's actually all a US Government Conspiracy a la X-Files. No, no! I know it sounds far-fetched. Allow me to explain:

What does the Tooth Fairy traditionally leave for you when you leave your tooth under your pillow? Money. A half-dollar, a silver-dollar. I think once I even got a five dollar bill -- but that was after I had a bunch of teeth pulled. The Tooth Fairy must have known how much it hurt. Maybe forceful extraction is worth more? Maybe it's because the teeth weren't ripe yet. Who knows? Anyway, where do you think all this money comes from?

Here's a hint: It's not coming from the US Mint. Oh, sure, it's made at the US Mint, but I've done my research. There is no history whatsoever of any sort of deal made with the Tooth Fairy for distribution of coins. As far as I can tell, they all go to banks and casinos and then get distributed from there. Now, I imagine that the Tooth Fairy could possibly withdraw from the banks, but it seems to me that banker's hours and Tooth Fairy hours are quite opposite, and never the twain shall meet -- not until they start dispensing coins from ATMs. Or until the casinos start accepting a 5 tooth minimum bet.

So, in essence, I can only imagine that the Tooth Fairy is thus conjuring her coins into existence somehow. Because I believe the Tooth Fairy to be above theft, let's assume that she's making her own coins.

Now, according to the 2000 U.S.Census, there are roughly 70.2 million people under the age of 18 in the US. Let's assume that 40% of those are between the ages of 5 and 10. That's 28.1 million kids, all of tooth-losing age -- or tooth-harvesting age depending on the point of view. The average child has 20 deciduous or "baby" teeth. Let's assume that a quarter of them get lost and never make it to the pillow. So, if the Tooth Fairy gives each tooth-bearing child one dollar for each tooth that he or she manages to keep long enough to put under their pillow at night that's $421 million that she's allotting to the country's children. And let's not forget that each year, there are more kids starting to lose teeth, and the birth rate in the US is about 4 million born per year right now (That's $65 million per year unaccounted for!).

It seems to me that somebody in the government must have caught on. It's as plain as day -- there were roughly 65 million coins coming into circulation every year that the US Government had nothing to do with -- they're losing money, inflation is soaring, and kids keep demanding more. Call it stiumlation of the economy, if you want. Uncontrolled, it's dangerous, the dollar weakens, we fall into recession. Something had to be done.

(A quick side note: I am not guilty of putting these coins into circulation. I still have every coin the Tooth Fairy left for me. I spent the ones that my mom left for me, though.)

And so here's what I think was done. They gave out these little red plastic treasure chests at public schools (veritable Tooth Fairy Kryptonite). One for every student in every Kindergarten class in every school in the US (very small manufacturing costs -- that's what cheap Asian labor is all about). And all of the students brought them home to mom and promptly forgot about them. Then moms, being what they are, got the idea: "Why let the Tooth Fairy run away with valuable memories of my child's deciduous teeth? I can just as easily leave them a dollar, and then I have tangible memories of my child's teeth forever!"

The rest, as they say, is history.

I can understand it from the Government's point of view. (It's rare that I say that, but in this case I can.) But I can't help but feel bad for the Tooth Fairy. This isn't about money for her, it's her lifeblood! It's her purpose, her raison d'etre, if you'll excuse my French. All she wants is teeth. Who knows what she does with them -- maybe she eats them and it's the only way she can survive. It could quite possibly be that she's been weakened so much by the overall lack of teeth in our prospering economy that even were all the little plastic treasure chests emptied and given to her, she would not be strong enough to claim them.

It is with a heavy heart, then, that I proclaim that I believe that we are killing an icon. By disallowing the Tooth Fairy to make her rounds and collect teeth as she may, we could very well be driving her to extinction. Much like the Dodo, she may not be missed by many, but years from now we will look back and say, "If only..."

So I appeal to you, my friends, if and when you have children, do not save their teeth! Give them extra money if you have to. Take a picture of the tooth and then put it back for the Tooth Fairy to claim, if you need the memory. Don't let her fall into fable and myth! Please, let this icon of dental and oral history survive!

Viva la Fée de Dent!


Writer, beer drinker, brewer. Not necessarily in the order. For more, check Top Fermented and Mystery Brewing Company.

more about erik lars myers


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tracey kelley
5.6.02 @ 10:27a

This has got to be one of the most unusual Monday morning columns I have ever read.

erik myers
5.6.02 @ 10:29a

It's what everybody gets from me being really bored at work on Friday.


jeffrey walker
5.25.02 @ 2:50p

Sorry I didn't see the sooner (been on vacation for a week).
I think it's this: the U.S. government created the myth, so that parents would put the money under our pillows as to make us dependent on money from a young age. "Gotta get 'em hooked on capitalism young!

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