Chicago Dentists Buy Back Halloween Candy to Support the Troops

Chicago Dentists Buy Back Halloween Candy to Support the Troops

If there is one holiday dentists hate, it has to be Halloween.

But dozens of Chicago-area dentists are turning those weeks of kids chewing on sugar-filled treats into a charitable opportunity by participating in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which collects Halloween candy from kids and sends it to troops serving overseas. 

Of course, you can’t just take away a kid’s Halloween candy and not give something back, so participating dentists pay $1 for each pound of candy donated.

The buy-back program was started in 2005 in Middleton, Wisconsin by highly rated dentist Dr. Chris Kammer, who wanted to help prevent childhood tooth decay by “getting some of the candy off the streets.”

RELATED: 4 Steps to Help Your Child Prevent Cavities

“In 2005, I held my first HCBB. The next year, I went to my colleagues and asked if they’d be interested in supporting this endeavor by simply paying $1 for every pound of candy a child brought into their respective offices followed by sending the goodies to the troops overseas. The local responses were fabulous and in the following years – the national response overwhelmed me as well,” Kammer says.

Today, thousands of dentists nationwide participate, and a total of 130 tons of candy has been sent overseas since the program started.

Dozens of Chicago-area dentists are participating again this year. To find out if your family dentist is involved, search on the organization’s website

Tips to avoid Halloween tooth decay

While it’s unlikely you will convince your kids to give up all their candy, the Chicago-based American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry provides the following tips to minimize what it calls the “Halloween Mouth Monsters.”

  • Sort it out — Don’t allow kids to immediately rip into their candy when they return from trick-or-treating. Sit down and sort the haul into categories with them based on how each will affect their teeth.
  • Avoid the sticky stuff — The worst treats for kids’ teeth are gummies, caramels and sour candies. “The chewy, sticky candies get stuck in the grooves and crevices of the teeth making it hard for saliva to wash them away which leads to tooth decay,” says the AAPD. “Sour candies have a high acidity content which breaks down tooth enamel.”
  • Focus on the chocolate — Chocolate is generally less sticky than other treats, and doesn’t have the high acidity that can lead to decay of tooth enamel. If you find dark chocolate in your kids’ bags, well that’s better yet. Dark chocolate contains “antioxidants like tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids that can inhibit bacteria from sticking to the teeth, preventing infections in gums and battling tooth decay,” the AAPD says.

RELATED: Pediatric dentistry, by the numbers


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