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Tooth Fairy Survey: $3 Goes Under the Pillow

The Tooth Fairy is starting to look a lot more like Santa Claus.

Kids found an average $3 per tooth under their pillows this year, up 15% from last year, according to a survey from Visa out Tuesday. Some received as much as $20 per tooth. "It's a good time to be a kid with a loose tooth," says Jason Alderman, Visa's senior director of global financial education.

The Tooth Fairy is not to be taken lightly, child psychologists warn: Excessive monetary rewards can distort a child's perception of money. "I believe that it not only can be adverse to learning the values of things, but it can also be adverse to learning you earned things," says Patricia Kirwin, a psychologist in Columbus, Ohio.

Unfortunately, teachers say, tooth inflation is all too common in elementary schools. Nobody wants to be the parent whose child is "the talk at recess," because of a frugal Tooth Fairy, says Amy Moncarz, a second-grade teacher at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Rockville, Md. Discrepancies in tooth price can lead to a conversation parents might want to avoid: the existence of the Tooth Fairy itself.

To help parents calculate the going rate for teeth, Visa on Tuesday is launching an app for iPhone and iPad and a calculator on its Facebook page. The app uses the survey's data to determine the average payoff a child can expect based on a parent's gender, education, location, age and income. The app also shows how much the recommended dollar amount was worth when the parent was 8.

Kate Wagner, whose daughter, Emily, 5, lost five teeth this summer, says a tooth-pricing app would be helpful. She and her husband settled on a buck a tooth — what they received as kids.

While the app aims to promote fiscal responsibility in kids, financial gurus say it may encourage parents to try to outdo one another. "The app would be a driver of tooth inflation, not a tracker," says Charles Green, CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates, a management consultant. "I would predict a psychological bidding game."

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