(Newsroom America) -- An unlikely but accurate economic indicator, Tooth Fairy payouts are soaring, posting record gains in 2016 and early 2017.
According to the Original Tooth Fairy Poll, sponsored by Delta Dental, the Tooth Fairy's cash payouts have jumped to an all-time high over the past year, up to an average of $4.66 compared to $3.91 in 2015.
That could spell even better things to come for the economy. The Original Tooth Fairy Poll has typically served as a good indicator of the economy's overall direction, tracking with the movement of Standard & Poor's 500 index (S&P 500) for 12 of the past 13 years.
This year's poll shows Tooth Fairy payouts are nearly right on target - within a few percentage points - with a 19.18 percent increase in cash payouts amount as the S&P 500 saw an increase of 19.61 percent compared to the same time last year.
In 2016, the Tooth Fairy paid an estimated $290.6 million for lost teeth, up 13.5 percent from the prior year. Cash payouts for a child's first lost tooth, typically higher than average, are also up nearly 10 percent at $5.72.
"In addition to the excitement a visit from the Tooth Fairy brings, she also delivers lessons in finance and good oral health," said Jennifer Elliott, vice president of marketing for Delta Dental Plans Association.
"Having conversations with children about good oral health habits, from an early age, can help establish strong habits for a lifetime, and the Tooth Fairy can be a great way to help spark those conversations."
According to the poll, the Tooth Fairy visits 85 percent of the nation's households with children; and in 89 percent of those homes, leaves money. But, 56 percent of parents say the Tooth Fairy can be a little forgetful, neglecting to pick up the tooth on the first night.
By region, Tooth Fairy payouts are highest in the West: $5.96 ($6.89 for the first tooth); followed by the Northeast at $5.08 ($6.31); the South at $4.57 ($4.88); and the Midwest at $4.04 ($5.70).
An even split of children save (48 percent) and spend (48 percent) Tooth Fairy cash; however, 3 percent actually donate the money, and a savvy one percent even loan the cash out.
In addition to money, the Tooth Fairy often leaves gifts that strengthen children's oral health habits, leaving toothbrushes (38 percent), dental floss (21 percent) and toothpaste (22 percent).