New research from the economists at Delta Dental suggests that last year was the second-best year of all-time to lose all your teeth, provided you have access to a Tooth Fairy. Each year since 1998, the company has conducted a Tooth Fairy Poll, asking parents how much they give kids for a lost tooth. It is a transparent ploy to get media coverage, so congratulations to them on that score.
Operating under the perfectly rational assumption that Delta Dental's research is peer-reviewed and statistically significant, we figured we would see just how well it stacked up with other equally useful economic indicators. So we dug up a few data points: the price of the Dow Jones Industrial average on the last day of each year, annual gross domestic product for the U.S., and the average price of consumer goods as calculated under the Consumer Price Index. And lo:
The price of a tooth (blue line) has increased a little faster than the Consumer Price Index average since 1998, but more slowly than the GDP. And like the Dow, it's highly volatile. That's seen more clearly here, tracking average change of each index.
What's worth noting, however, is that there isn't a clear correlation between tooth prices and the Dow -- in other words, that these two indicators track different aspects of the economy. Equally well, I might add.
A contrary indicator: sugar. One would think that as sugar prices rose, it's use would taper. That, in turn would suggest that cavities would decline, making teeth worth more. And sure enough, there is a clear causal relationship between sugar prices and the price for a tooth.
One note of caution: the data from Delta Dental isn't adjusted for inflation. When you do so, a different picture emerges.
Last year was a good one -- but only slightly more so than the boomtime of 2005, a year remembered by kids around the world as one of the most flush in recent memory. In 2006, the bubble popped.
And finally, to answer the question on everyone's mind. Given a full set of 20 baby teeth, what would have been the best year to lose them all? Adjusted for inflation, your winner is 2010, when losing a full mouth of little kid's teeth would have cost his parents $53.20. Despite the parents' entreaties, an estimated $0 of that money went into the bank for college.