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The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art & science of dentistry and to represent the interests of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.

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  • February 19, 2019

Tricks and treats

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The pumpkins are out, costumes hang ready for picking, and bags and bags and mega-bags of candy treats are front and center for the Halloween season (which apparently starts in September). At this time of year, dentists are put in the tricky position of being a patient’s oral health guardian, painfully aware that the tsunami of gooey, sticky and chewy is not good for teeth. But rather than throw up your gloved hands in defeat, devise a counter-offensive that puts the spotlight on holiday fun and enjoyment. Of course, dentists still have a responsibility to call attention to the good and the bad of Halloween treats, but doing so in a way that does not seem draconian to little Draculas might win over some souls to your cause.

A good place to start is with your practice’s website. Pinterest and Google are awash in Halloween images that can be pasted and used as backgrounds. Keep the images tasteful and fun (not too spooky) to inject some personality and timeliness on your site.

A couple pumpkins – maybe one carved with an oversized grin and teeth – will add a festive spirit to the office. Sure to get a giggle from youngsters and a smile from adults: set out a ball of twine labeled “fang floss.”

For younger patients, put the focus on the fun activities that revolve around Halloween, rather than the candy. Host a costume or pumpkin decorating contest, in your office or on your website. Contestants could submit pictures of their costumes or pumpkins; winners could be selected (or to encourage more traffic to your website, online votes could be recorded to choose winners). Prizes could be as simple or extravagant as you’d like: toothbrushes and toothpaste or gift cards to a favorite store or restaurant.

During appointments, dentists can quiz youngsters about choosing their costumes, what traditions they have around Halloween, when their family starts decorating. That shines a light on other ways to enjoy the holiday and deemphasizes the preoccupation with candy. Even some short, age-appropriate advice on how to enjoy the Halloween haul (chips over taffy, mini chocolate bars over caramel apples) can be impactful. Don’t neglect the office staff either. For some people, Halloween is their favorite holiday. These folks begin thinking and planning months in advance for their decorations or costumes. Indulge those Halloween uber-fans too, as long as their fun is tasteful and office-appropriate. Discuss with the staff whether costumes can be worn on (or around) Halloween.

Another way to help young patients (and their families) help themselves is to set up a candy “buy back.” Candy can be collected and sent to a number of organizations to be dispersed or the practice itself can collect the candy and dole out toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste and the like to children. Organizations like Soldiers’ Angels and Operation Gratitude collect and box up candy in care packages sent to overseas troops. Ronald McDonald House Charities (call ahead) also will accept candy to share with patients and their families cooped up in the hospital for Halloween.

There’s a way to make Halloween fun and meaningful without much trouble. With a little help from some office goblins, your practice can make Halloween fun and healthier for all.


Photo by Tricia Koning.


The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society.

CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.

Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist.

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