by Julie Seager, RDH, BSDH
Americans spend about $7 billion dollars each year during the Halloween season on decorations, costumes, and candy. Children eagerly anticipate their candy-eating frenzy for months in advance and, in many neighborhoods, selectively choose to trick–or-treat at houses that are known for giving away the biggest and best treats. As dental professionals, we always encourage our patients to eat candy only on special occasions or as a special treat, but when one night’s worth of trick-or-treating turns into months of leftover candy, the risk for cavities and other health issues ensue.

The great news is that those of you providing dental care to underserved populations are making a huge difference. According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control, untreated dental decay is finally on the decline. Even still, early childhood caries is on an upswing—so for now, we have our work cut out for us. Because so many of us are now approaching patient care by looking at the oral-systemic connection, we take it upon ourselves to educate our patients not only about dental and periodontal disease, but also about systemic disease prevention through good nutrition.

In the United States one in eleven, or approximately 29.1 million, people have diabetes and one in four of those do not know they are diabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association website. Only 5 percent of the diabetic population is diagnosed with Type 1. A more frightening statistic is that one in three adults, or 86 million people have pre-diabetes and nine out of ten do not know it. The risk to adults is a 50 percent higher death rate than those without diabetes and their medical costs are more than double of those without the disease. What was once termed “Adult Onset Diabetes” has had to be changed to “Type 2 Diabetes” due to the increasing number of children also diagnosed with the disease.

A great way to help promote healthy eating and at the same time, give our children a sense of value to trick-or-treating, is to participate in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program. Over 2,000 dental offices are part of this program and the number is growing each year as awareness increases. In this program, dental offices designate a day after Halloween for kids to bring in their candy in exchange for cash. Usually one dollar per pound of candy is given. For dental practices who sign up to be a Platinum Sponsor, in addition to the dollar, the kids will get a sweet treat bag of Spry xylitol goodies when they bring in their Halloween candy. Once the candy is collected, it is shipped to Operation Gratitude and they send it to our troops overseas. Many of the troops distribute the candy to the local children so they can have a special treat and many also use it as a way to create a friendly environment with the children and their parents. Last year Operation Gratitude sent 580,000 lbs. of candy and 16,000 toothbrushes overseas to our troops.

So, this Halloween, as you’re donning your Hillary or Trump costume, remember that by participating in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program your impact as a healthcare professional will extend further than you ever imagined.

Click here for more information and to register your dental practice to participate in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program.

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