Halloween buy-back program aims to cut down on cavities, help troops overseas

Oct. 31, 2012: A boy collects candy as he goes trick-or-treating for Halloween in Santa Monica, California.

Oct. 31, 2012: A boy collects candy as he goes trick-or-treating for Halloween in Santa Monica, California.  (Reuters)

As pint-sized ghosts, goblins and the latest Pixar characters dash through neighborhoods on Halloween night collecting pounds of candy, dentists are gearing up to cash in – but not in the way you might expect.

More than 1,000 dentists across the country are participating in the Halloween Candy Buy-Back program (HCBB), which has partnered with the non-profit Operation Gratitude. The program encourages dentists to provide incentives and “buy back” the candy from patients. Kids receive $1 for every pound of candy they turn in, and the sweets collected are shipped by Operation Gratitude to troops serving overseas.

Founder Dr. Chris Kammer of Lifetime Family Dentistry in Middleton, Wisconsin, started the program in 2005 as a way to get candy “off the streets,” according to the event’s website.

“Ditch the candy, that’s what we’re saying. Visiting your dentist twice a year and brushing daily are great preventative measures, but doing away with excess sweets altogether would really give your teeth a health boost,” Kammer said in a press release.

“Kids can still have all of the fun of trick-or-treating and now their piggy banks will benefit as well,” he added.

Toothbrushes and toothpaste are also collected and sent over with the care packages. More than 130 tons of candy has been collected since the program started, and in 2013, Operation Gratitude and HCBB shipped their one-millionth package.

“They come home with bags and bags of candy and this year actually, my son wanted to take a bag back because it’s getting so heavy,” Jaynee Harvey told

Harvey’s children will bring their candy to the Atlanta Dental Spa, which is participating in Kammer’s movement, where they will be given a dollar for every pound they bring in.

“It’s important to us because we’re not just dentists, and we want to take candy out of the mouths of kids so they don’t get cavities, but we’re also health advocates, and as we know, these kids that are eating pounds and pounds of candy, it’s only contributing to the obesity problems that we have in America,” Dr. Susan Estep of Atlanta Dental Spa told the news site.

To find a participating dentist in your area, or for more information click here.