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Double-Digit Growth a Good Sign for the Economy: The Tooth Fairy

Ciara Drennan | Flickr Open | Getty Images

In our desperate attempt to predict economic cycles, we look at all kinds of crazy indicators—like men's underwear sales or how hot a waitress is—for insight. Well, guess what: the answer may have been under your pillow the whole time.

Delta Dental is out with its annual Tooth Fairy Poll and it showed that the average amount left under kids' pillows for lost baby teeth shot up more than 15 percent to $2.42 in 2012 from $2.10 a year earlier.

Looking to the Tooth Fairy, with her little fluttering fairy dust, for signs of economic recovery may at first feel like rock-bottom desperation but it makes sense: The better off a family is doing, the more inclined a parent – er, the Tooth Fairy -- is to pad the little things like baby-tooth pay. They may not be ready to buy an iPad or the Barbie Dream House but a little extra under the pillow is doable.

"I'm happy to say that the Tooth Fairy delivered encouraging news about the country's economic recovery in 2012," said Bill Hupp, a spokesperson for Delta Dental Plans Association.

And, Delta asserts, the numbers back up their pearly-white smile: The Tooth Fairy index has correlated with the S&P 500 in nine of the past 10 years. The index fell sharply during the recession and in 2012 it hit its highest level in more than 10 years. That 15-percent jump correlated with a 13.4-percent gain in the S&P 500.

The Tooth Fairy, like most of us, still appreciates the value of the dollar: $1 was the most common amount left under pillows.

First-time losers (of teeth, that is) cashed in big: The average amount given for the first lost tooth was $3.49.

And, a lucky 22 percent of kids hit it rich, receiving $5 for each lost tooth.

So, the question isn't so much "Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?" It's "Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy Indicator?!"

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

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