Tooth fairy pay gap widens

22 August 2019 . United Kingdom

In celebration of National Tooth Fairy Day on 22nd August, new research reveals the tooth fairy is leaving less under the pillow these days.

  • Frugal fairy leaves an average of £2.43 per tooth, plummeting £1.39 over the past year
  • Yet 38% of parents are prepared to increase tooth fairy pay outs to encourage better oral care
  • 52% primed to pay a minimum of £5 extra to improve childhood dental habits

According to new research[1] out today from Bupa Dental Care, the tooth fairy is tightening her purse strings, with the average pay out per tooth plunging over the past year.

The research, which targeted parents and guardians of children aged between one and 14, revealed that each pearly white commands £2.43 on average, down from £3.82[2] in 2018.

Despite declining value, the tooth fairy could potentially be spreading her wings and placing a more generous under-pillow reward, with one in three (38%) parents playing the role of the tooth fairy stating they would be prepared to fork out more if it meant their child would brush up on their oral care routine. In fact, more than half (52%) are prepared to pay a minimum of £5 extra as a way of enticing their children to protect their smile.

This comes as the Department of Health and Social Care’s Prevention Green Paper released last month highlights that tooth decay is currently the most common reason for hospital admission for children aged five to nine years old – despite it being largely preventable. The cost to the NHS of treating oral conditions is approximately £3.4 billion according to Public Health England’s 2019 figures.

Dr Gurman Sond, Dental Clinical Fellow and Dentist at Bupa Dental Care, commented: “With tooth decay in primary school aged children becoming alarmingly common, with almost a quarter of 5-year olds starting school with visible tooth decay, I’m not surprised to see that parents are looking for ways to encourage better oral health habits.”

“Tooth decay is entirely preventable and encouraging good oral hygiene from a young age is so important, as looking after children’s milk teeth sets a healthy foundation for their permanent teeth to develop. Making sure your children brush their teeth twice a day, reducing the amount of sugar in their diet, and getting little ones used to regular check-ups at the dentist as soon as their first teeth come through, will all ensure the tooth fairy gets to collect healthy teeth from happy smiles.”

The survey results also show that on average children stop believing in the tooth fairy between eight and nine years old. By the age of nine, more than half (61%) of children no longer believe the mythical tale is true.

Staying true to tradition, more than half (56%) of parents admit to keeping their children’s baby teeth, with the teeth seen as more sentimental than a first blanket, but less so than a child’s lock of hair, first pair of shoes, and first teddy.

Dr Sond’s top 5 tips for brushing up on your oral health:

Following the results of the survey, dentist at Bupa Dental Care, Dr Gurman Sond has given his top five tips for nailing your child’s oral health routine.

He says: “Good dental care doesn’t have to be a chore and tooth decay is completely preventable with regular check-ups and simple changes to your child’s daily routine.”

Start early for pearly whites

You should take your baby to the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts to get them used to the environment. Making the dentist a fun and worry-free experience from a young age will ensure they’re happy and comfortable and less likely to fear the dentist later on in life. Remember that children under 18 usually qualify for free NHS dental treatment.

Between 0-3 years…

Use a gentle child’s toothbrush to brush your child’s teeth, which has bristles designed to be kind to the gums, and a suitable toothpaste as advised by your dentist.

Make brushing teeth fun

Getting children to brush their teeth twice a day can be hard and we hear of many shying away from this important chore. To try and break any teeth-time tantrums, you could let your child choose a toothbrush in their favourite colour or one with a character from a TV show or movie, and make sure it’s the right size for your child’s mouth.

Time it right

To ensure your child is brushing for two minutes morning and night, try introducing a simple timer in the bathroom to make the time fly by and help encourage children to brush for the required amount of time. Downloading one of the fantastic and informative tooth brushing apps or singing your child’s favourite song for two minutes is another distraction technique to make teeth brushing an enjoyable task.


Independence kicks in fast, so it’s quite normal for children to want to brush their teeth themselves, particularly when reaching school age. That said, children will probably still need parental assistance when brushing to ensure it is done properly and for the whole two minutes, until they’re around seven or eight.

Visit Bupa Dental Care for more information.

Notes to editor

[1]The research was conducted on behalf of Bupa Dental Care by One Poll. Survey sample of 1,500 parents and guardians of children aged between one and 14. The research fieldwork took place in August 2019.

[2]The research was conducted on behalf of Bupa Dental Care by Atomik Research, in March 2018.

Regional findings – average payments from the tooth fairy across the UK:

Average payments tooth fairy

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives. With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

Health insurance accounts for the major part of our business with 17.5m customers and contributes 73% of revenue. We operate clinics, dental centres and hospitals in some markets, with 15.8m customers. We care for around 22,000 residents in our aged care businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

We directly employ around 83,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Turkey, Brazil, the US, Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

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