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Exchanging Halloween Candy Saves Teeth, Supports U.S. Troops

The Candy Exchange programs aim to save kids' teeth and gums and replace the sugary sweets with free toothbrushes, gift certificates and even cash.

kid holding taffy

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography (flickr)

The average American eats 24 pounds of candy each year and surely much of that is consumed around Halloween.

Now that trick-or-treating 2010 is complete, dentists and orthodontists across the country are encouraging families to relinquish their candy stashes. These programs aim to save kids’ teeth and gums and replace the sugary sweets with free toothbrushes, gift certificates, and even cash. In many cases, the candy will then be included in care packages to the U.S. troops serving overseas, passing the tooth decay buck to the grown-ups.

Dentists Join Forces

Halloween is an especially tricky time of year for kids with braces. Some 350 orthodontists are participating in this year’s Smiles Change Lives events, which gives kids the chance to exchange their candy for healthy treats and prizes. The Smiles Changes Lives program gives 11-18-year-olds the chance to get braces, with participating professionals donating their services.

Through Operation Gratitude, the candy gets shipped overseas to U.S. troops. New Era Dentistry in Indianapolis is one of the many offices participating in this program. Spokeswoman Nicole Chapel says last year, this program collected more than six tons of candy for the troops and gave kids gum which, instead of decaying teeth, helps to clean them. In addition to this dentist office in Indiana, offices in Nevada, Florida, Idaho, and Missouri, to name a few, are also participating in Operation Gratitude.

Something As Fun As Candy

But, some offices are offering even more for your left-over Halloween treats. The $1 per pound of candy many offices are advertising will bring in kids eager to feed their piggy banks. Here are some other fun items dentists and orthodontists are using to entice kids to give up their sweets:

  • Children with diabetes are encouraged to bring their candy in to a dentist office in Salisbury, Maryland to exchange for a gift card to use to purchase a game, toy or other special gift.
  • Get active when you turn in your candy to a Clarksville, Tennessee dentist office. Two martial arts clubs are encouraging kids to donate up to four pounds of candy in order to receive up to four weeks of martial arts classes for free.
  • The children who bring in the most candy to a Chicago, Illinois dentist will win grand-prize gift baskets. The runner-up prizes aren’t bad either: gift certificates to Best Buy, Toys R Us, Target, Borders and Hollywood Video.
  • It’s a treat-for-treat exchange in Las Vegas, Nevada. One pound of candy gets you a gift certificate for a frozen yogurt. Or, if you are more technologically inclined, one pound of candy gets you one raffle ticket for an iPod give-away.

More: What candy exchange programs are taking place in your area? Or, have you eaten all your Halloween candy already? Let us know, and write a comment below!

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Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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  • http://bradpitts.com/ Randy Deaver

    Wow, this is a good idea. This will definitely prevent teeth problems during Halloween season. Hehe! Kids are to be taught how to take care of their teeth from their childhood so future teeth problems can be prevented. We cannot really take away sweets from them, anyhow. But it’s nice to see that they are now becoming more concerned with their teeth these days.

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