AUBURN, Maine — The day after Halloween, the calls from patients start coming in at Center Street Dental in Auburn.
Crashing from their sugar highs, patients phone to complain of broken fillings after eating too much candy — kids, parents, even senior citizens.
“On November 1, they call and say, ‘I broke my teeth,’” said dentist Dr. Rosemarie Sheline.
Determined to protect her patients’ smiles from the seasonal onslaught of chocolate and high-fructose corn syrup, Sheline is offering to pay her patients for their treats. The deal is this: Center Street Dental will fork over $1 for every pound of candy kids drop off, plus their school will win a donation of 50 cents. The candy is then shipped to Operation Gratitude, a California nonprofit that packages the treats into care packages for deployed troops.
The candy buy-back event, now in its second year, hauled in 170 pounds of candy last Halloween, Sheline said.
“We’re hoping for more kids and more candy this year,” she said.
This year’s candy buy-back will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 at Center Street Dental.
Dentists have hosted similar events in other states. Scarborough orthodontist Lisa Howard is also planning a Halloween candy buy-back this year, according to the Maine Dental Association.
More than 93 percent of kids go trick-or-treating each year, according to the American Dental Association. The average American consumes 24 pounds of candy annually, and among children, the largest amount is gobbled down on or after Halloween.
Sheline acknowledges kids will eat candy this time of year, but a few tips can help avoid oral health problems, she said. Dark chocolate, which contains vitamin E, is a healthier option, though some kids don’t like the bitter taste.
Jawbreakers candies, as the name not so subtly suggests, are among the worst confectionary offenders, she said. Parents should encourage children to suck on hard candies rather than chew them, which can cause tooth breakage, Sheline said.
Chewy, sticky candies are more likely to damage braces and other orthodontic equipment.
Children should limit how much candy they eat each day, but the quantity of sugary treats isn’t the only consideration, Sheline said.
“The key is how often do they eat it,” she said. “It’s more the frequency of eating more than the amount.”
Parents might not know that children should wait after indulging their sweet tooth to brush and floss, Sheline said. The sugar in candy and sodas sticks to the nooks and crannies of teeth, fueling bacteria that produces cavity-causing acid, she explained. Saliva helps to refortify teeth after that acid softens them following a sugary snack, but brushing too soon preempts the process, she said.
Kids should brush and floss a couple of hours after eating candy, Sheline said. That means no Halloween loot right before bed.