Dentists Love Halloween, Too

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With Halloween just around the corner, trick-or-treaters are getting ready to rake in the candy. While brushing twice a day and visiting the dentist every six months are preventive measures, children's teeth also benefit by limiting the candy they consume. This Halloween, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) encourages children to donate some of their candy to the Halloween Candy Buyback Program.

Participating dentists "buy" unopened Halloween candy from neighborhood kids at a scheduled event. They purchase candy with cash, coupons, toothbrushes and other goody bags. Once the candy is collected, it is shipped to a non-profit organization called Operation Gratitude, based in California. From there, volunteers fill care packages, address each with an individual soldier's name on it and send them to our troops overseas.

Dr. Eric Seidel, a PDA member from Gettysburg, began participating in the buyback program in 2010, and this will be his third year collecting candy.

"We decided to get involved because although children love all the sugary candy, it's just not good for their teeth. This way kids can trade in some of their candy for cash and we all can do something great for the troops," Dr. Seidel said.

Currently, global sugar consumption for kids is at 50 million tons per year. Sugar is the fuel that causes tooth decay, which is the most common chronic disease in children. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. PDA encourages parents to be mindful of the amount of candy their children consume and be aware of the damage too much candy can do to young teeth.

Dr. Seidel's office will collect Halloween candy on November 1 from 1-5:30 p.m. and November 2 from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The children will receive $1 for each pound of candy they donate and will be able to sign a giant card for the troops. They also are encouraged to bring along a letter, drawing or picture to include in the care packages.

The benefit to children and their parents is clear. The program provides an outlet to get rid of excess candy in an enjoyable way while benefiting others in the process. 

"Kids get to have the fun of trick-or-treating and don't have all the sugary candy lying around. They love it because they get to fill their piggy banks with cash. Parents support the program because it provides the children with an opportunity to give up their candy willingly and they also like to support our troops overseas," Dr. Seidel said.

The Halloween Candy Buyback Program teaches children about service and giving back. Our men and women in uniform especially enjoy receiving packages from home during the holidays. In 2010, 122,000 pounds of candy was collected and sent to the troops. 2011 proved to be a record-breaking year as 125 tons of candy was collected. Halloween candy is a visible reminder of home and lifts soldiers' morale. They realize that children back home are thoughtful enough to donate candy to show their support.    

Toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste also are donated for the care packages. This year, there is a new challenge to collect a total of 100,000 toothbrushes to send to the troops. Operation Gratitude welcomes additional items such as commercially-sealed lip balm, energy or protein bars, small packages of beef jerky, DVDs and CDs, hand-knit scarves and hats, dark colored socks and small stuffed animals.

To locate participating offices in your area, visit halloweencandybuyback.com. For more information on Operation Gratitude, visit operationgratitude.com.