Local orthodontist encourages safe snacking; another will buy back Halloween candy

Jennie McKeon
Dr. Runnels pictured last year at the Seaside Marathon Expo with his daughter Lily. Dr. Runnels is located in Destin and Panama City. For more information, call 269-0333 or visit www.runnelsortho.com.

October is a scary time for dentists and orthodontists. And yet, ironically, it is also National Orthodontic Health Month.

"Candy is one of the major things that break our appliances," said Dr. William Neale of Neale Orthodontics. "It is a nightmare for orthodontists and dentists during October. Brackets come off and hygiene is crazy."

To combat the over indulgence of Halloween, dental healthcare providers have adopted candy buy-back programs encouraging patients to stay away from harmful candy.

At Dr. Scott Runnel's office, this is the second year that the practice will participate in a buy-back program.

"We decided to do it at the last minute a couple of years ago, but we didn't really advertise it," said Kim Burke, practice manager. "However, we still collected about 20 pounds of candy."

Through Dr. Runnel's buy-back program, children can bring in candy from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. the Friday after Halloween to sell unopened candy, receiving $1 for each pound, up to five pounds. Candy sellers do not have to be a patient.

"The pace definitely picks up this time of year with patients breaking wires and brackets — things you put in your mouth do affect your teeth," Burke said.

However, dentists and orthodontists such as Runnels aren't just trying to take away from kids.

"Our hope is to buy any candy they can't have — anything that is sticky and crunchy," Burke said. "It is Halloween, kids have to have fun."

There's no tricks when it comes to taking kid's treats. All candy collected will be distributed to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that fills up thousands of care packages to send to troops overseas.

While area dentists and orthodontists gear up for busy offices, they also use this time of the year to raise awareness about the importance of orthodontic health.

"It's odd timing I guess in that candy plays a big role in this," Neale said with a laugh. "Area orthodontists like to use this month to educate patients about what we do and the importance of seeing an orthodontist the first time you notice a problem. We treat patients from birth to adults — we've even had a patient who got braces in her 80s."

The month is also dedicated to shedding light on the difference between a dentist and orthodontist. Orthodontist are specialists, with at least two years of orthodontic training on top of dental school.

To engage the community during National Orthodontic Month, Runnels hosts field trips in his colorful, modern office for local students to do Halloween-themed crafts and activities while sending resource information home to parents.

As far as advice for this Halloween, Runnels urges patients and non-patients alike to practice safe snacking.

"It's really important to do a thorough job of brushing the sugar off of your teeth," he said. "The sugar allows plaque to grow, which allows cavities. It's important to maintain general dental care."