By Liz Neporent, ABC News
According to a new "case study" described in Thursday's British Medical Journal, the tooth fairy is alleged to have ventured from her typically benevolent perch, causing a bit of mischief by inserting a tooth into the ear of an 8-year-old boy.
The boy was referred to an allergy specialist for an ominous sounding condition known as profuse mucopurulent rhinorrhoea - which is a $12 way of saying he had a chronically runny nose. X-rays revealed his sinuses were indeed severely inflamed. They also revealed the reason: a calcified foreign object firmly lodged in his ear canal. In other words, a tooth.
If the family ever considers legal action against the winged dental nymph, what court would have jurisdiction? And isn't that a moot point since no witness saw how the tooth actually found its way into the boy's ear?
The tooth fairy's imaginary lawyer - let's call him Fairy Mason - would probably mount a defense placing culpability on the parents.
After the boy initially lost the tooth, he placed it under his pillow, but during the night he woke up highly distressed, claiming the liberated dentistry had been inserted into his left ear. The parents pooh-poohed his fears, dismissing them as a bad dream. But when they couldn't locate the missing incisor, did they take the boy more seriously?
No, they did not. Instead they allowed their son to suffer a leaky schnozzle for nearly three years before taking him to the allergist who discovered the problem.
That's not to say the tooth fairy is always so innocent. Pam Montgomery of Colorado Springs, Colo., reached by ABC News via Twitter, recalls the traumatic childhood experience of losing her first tooth.
"The tooth fairy was banned from my bedroom and told to leave the cash in a cup in the bathroom," she said.
Montgomery awoke early the next morning to find the dental demon gone - and her father suspiciously hovering near the cup with his wallet out. Why isn't the British Medical Journal writing about that - even if, like Thursday's report, it would be somewhat tongue-in-cheek?
In all seriousness, there is a message here. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Me., who is a spokesman for the tooth fairy (at least for this story) and the American Dental Association, said you can enhance lost tooth safety by placing the precious enamel in a small container or envelope before slipping it under your child's pillow.
"That way the tooth cannot get into any orifice," Shenkin said. "Probably not, anyway."
Shenkin does hasten to add, that while it is plausible a tooth might get stuck in an ear or up a nostril, this probably shouldn't be superhigh on a parent's list of worries. He's never dealt with any such incidence in his practice and doubts it's a common occurrence, unless parents are too embarrassed to come clean.
That's the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth!