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City Dentists Buy Back Halloween Candy from Sugar-Loving Kids

By Amy Zimmer | October 31, 2014 7:26am | Updated on October 31, 2014 4:42pm
 Bay Ridge dentist Robert Souferian and his daughter, now 5, giving away Halloween candy at last year's buyback program at his office.
Bay Ridge dentist Robert Souferian and his daughter, now 5, giving away Halloween candy at last year's buyback program at his office.
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Robert Souferian

MANHATTAN — Too much Halloween candy can be a dangerous thing, especially in the eyes of a dentist.

That's why 17 dentists across the city are offering to buy back the sugary, tooth-decaying treats from kids.

As part of the national Halloween Candy Buyback — started by a dentist from Wisconsin in 2007 — children get $1 per pound for their loot (some offices limit drop-offs to a 5-pound maximum) and the candy is shipped off to U.S. troops abroad — along with a toothbrush — through Operation Gratitude. Participating dentists can be found through the program's website.

Last year, New York City dentists collected 10,285 pounds of candy, according to Operation Gratitude officials.

"We know that the candy is not good for the kids' teeth," said Bay Ridge dentist Dr. Robert Souferian, who will be hosting a buyback event at his Third Avenue office on Nov. 1. Kids will also get a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste and a trinket-type toy, often available in vending machines.

"They stash it in the house and keep snacking on it. Parents don't have the heart to take it away. By doing this, children have one day of eating candy and then parents can say let's give it away for a good cause and get some cash," Souferian said.

Souferian lets his own children, ages 5 and 7, go trick-or-treating and eat candy, but he makes sure it's "in moderation."

They, too, gave away candy to the program, he noted.

"What's bad for kids' teeth is the frequency of introducing sugar in their mouth," he said. "It takes 15 minutes for that sugar to be washed away by saliva, but if a kid has a stack of candy and they keep going at it every half hour, you can tip the balance toward a cavity."

He thought the soldiers receiving the candy might also be candidates for cavities, but, he added, "when they're away from home, it's some comfort."

Christine Branigan, an administrative assistant who runs the candy buyback program for the Concerned Dental Care network, which has offices in the Bronx, Midtown, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, in addition to five locations in the suburbs, noticed that city kids tend to bring in less candy than their suburban counterparts.

"Maybe they don't know about the program as much or they love their candy and don't want to give it up or they don't get as much candy," Branigan said, noting that offices in the city give on average 20 pounds, while an office in Long Island collected 200 pounds from one school alone.

"It's really cute to see the kids come in with four or five pounds. We give $1 per pound and always round up," said Branigan, whose locations offer the buyback program for the entire week after Halloween.

Other healthcare professionals are also looking for ways to sweeten the pot to convince kids to give up their Halloween bounty. At the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, kids with diabetes are invited to come in costume on Monday to exchange candy for gifts. The holiday can be especially tricky for kids with diabetes who are trying to control their sugar intake, hospital officials said.