Orthodontists Offer Sweet Incentives For Tricky Halloween Treats

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The average American consumes more than 24 pounds of candy per year, and a sizeable portion of that indulgence is eaten around Halloween. For most people, this year's candy noshing will simply create an expanded beltline. However, for the more than 5 million North Americans in orthodontic treatment, Halloween treats can pose more tricky consequences.

To help ease candy temptation this Halloween, hundreds of members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) will sponsor candy buy-back programs in their offices. The initiative, which takes place immediately after Halloween, encourages patients of participating AAO members to bring their 'sticky, chewy, hard or crunchy' treats into their orthodontist's office and exchange them for braces-friendly alternatives such as movie tickets, gift certificates or cash. This year, AAO members are expected to collect at least 32,000 pounds -- or 16 tons -- of candy.

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The days immediately following Halloween are among the busiest of the year for orthodontists as they add emergency appointments to their schedules and repair braces damaged when patients indulge in inappropriate treats. This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, and many orthodontists' offices are closed on the weekend. A broken bracket or loose wire could make for an uncomfortable holiday weekend -- for both kids and their parents. Staying away from those tricky treats can prevent an emergency trip to the orthodontist, which could mean missed work for parents and time lost from school for young patients. Broken braces have the potential to prolong treatment.

"Each October the AAO encourages all orthodontic patients to have a fun and safe Halloween, but to keep in mind that some treats are not braces-friendly. If you have braces, you should avoid any foods that are sticky, chewy, hard or crunchy," says Raymond George, Sr., DMD, an orthodontist and president of the AAO. "If orthodontic patients are careful about the Halloween treats they eat, they can keep their braces intact and should be able to finish treatment on time and with good results."

So what happens to all of that candy collected by candy buy-back sponsors? Some AAO members donate it to local organizations and charities or send it overseas to sweeten the lives of those serving in the military.

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