Caswell County native Lori Welch Wilson leads a double life.
That’s not to say she has another family in Burlington or is a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency but she leads a double life none the less.
For over 20 years, Welch-Wilson worked as a pediatric dental assistance, ensuring kids had proper dental hygiene, during the day but once the office doors closed and the lights went out, Welch-Wilson became the Tooth Fairy in Disguise.
“I would tell the children my story because some of them would say, ‘Mrs. Lori, how are you the tooth fairy if you’re cleaning my teeth,’” Welch-Wilson said, laughing. “I would always say, ‘Well, my secret is during the day I work at the dentist office and at night, I’m the Tooth Fairy.’ So I started my double life with that. And the children were just so fascinated with my story, I decided I needed to write a book about my experiences.”
In Sept. 2017, Welch-Wilson made her want come true, releasing her book “The Tooth Fairy in Disguise” which includes illustrations by Pelham native and former Bartlett Yancey High School softball standout Hannah Thompson.
Welch-Wilson’s book is a full-color children’s book with interactive coloring pages from youngsters about a tooth fairy who decides she has to do something to help children stop getting cavities. One day she has a bright idea and decides to work for a dentist in disguise as a dental assistant and the adventures ensue.
“I have a big imagination, writing not so much, but I do have a big imagination,” Welch-Wilson said. “I’ve been a pediatric dental assistant for over 20 years of a 30-year career in the dental field so it’s been a big part of my life so I’m trying to teach children to use their imaginations and dream big and that they can be anybody they want to be when they grow up.”
Welch-Wilson’s dream of becoming a dental assistant began when she was young with trips to the dentist office with her cousin who worked as a hygienist in Alamance County.
“She used to take me to work with her so I was so fascinated with it as a child from the red disclosing tablets to the brushing and I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do one day,” Welch-Wilson said.
Keeping with Southern tradition, Welch-Wilson grew up in a large family having four brothers. With five kids close in age, money was tight around the household, meaning Welch-Wilson rarely got to go to the dentist as a kid. While some children might have felt a bit slighted, Welch-Wilson broke the mold and used it to motivate her in her dreams.
“It made me want to work in a dental office even more and teach children to properly take care of their teeth so they could have better hygiene and not have any cavities growing up,” Welch-Wilson said.
While living her dream of being a dental assistant was plenty enough to keep Welch-Wilson satisfied, she started having a burning to do something more a few years back. Thanks to her inquisitive patients and her double life, Welch-Wilson decided writing a children’s book would provide her with another outlet to not only help her teach kids the importance of good dental hygiene but literacy as well.
Armed with her dream, she went to her late mother who Welch-Wilson credits as being the real writer in the family. The two sat down and worked together and before Welch-Wilson knew it, the book and her dream were coming to fruition.
The Grateful Dead penned the lyric, ‘When life looks like easy street, there’s danger at your door,” in its 1970 hit “Uncle Johns Band” and while the song might not exactly be on Welch-Wilson’s musical radar, it’s a lyric that hit home.
Midway through the process, Welch-Wilson’s mother died of cancer, leaving her without her biggest supporter and fellow writer.
“When she was in her last weeks, I asked her, ‘Mom, how am I going to finish this book without you? I can’t do it,’” Welch-Wilson recalled. “She was the talented writer in the family and she told me I could do it and I said no I couldn’t and she told me yes I could. So, I just hung onto that and when I finished it and it was published, I felt like, ‘Oh my gosh mom, I did. I did it for you.’”
“So, I dedicated the book to my mother for believing in me and always believing in me so I was really tickled to death.”
Welch-Wilson has a larger-than-life personality and it’s on display at every appearance she makes in the Caswell/Alamance County regions. However, that personality was even more on display at her first book signing in 2017.
“I was tickled to death,” Welch-Wilson said. “If you hang around me long enough, I like to laugh a lot and it was a dream and something I had wanted to do for a while. At my first book signing, I was giggling the whole time. It was wonderful. It was so humbling. A dream come true. In my career, I had goals and those dreams came through for me.”
While some people might feel uncomfortable with the attention received from being in the public eye, Welch-Wilson thrives on it.
“When they see me and they recognize me, it’s just the best feeling in the world,” Welch-Wilson said. “If I’m at Food Lion or in the library and just in regular clothes, these children do not forget so it just warms my heart because they really believe in it and it gets them excited about brushing and reading as well.”
Welch-Wilson also received some extra recognition from Alamance Community College — her alma mater — earlier this year, being named the 2019 Distinguished Alumni for her promotion of good dental health and community service initiatives.
Welch-Wilson has two sons who have been the recipients of some playful ribbing from their peers over their mom being the Tooth Fairy over the years. Her publishing the book adds a little vindication for her two sons.
“They’ve always been picked on about their mom being the Tooth Fairy growing up, it’s been in fun, so they were very excited for me when my book came out,” Welch-Wilson said. “My husband was definitely a little apprehensive about me doing the book at first but he definitely believes in the book now and is excited and proud of me.”
The book is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble Demand and in various locations throughout Burlington and Caswell.