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THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Blogs

Halloween Candy Buyback Program

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            When I was a kid, Halloween was by far my favorite holiday. I loved planning months ahead what I was going to be, I loved spending a weeknight staying out late with my friends walking until my feet hurt, but most of all I loved competing with my brother over who got the most candy at the end of the night when we would spread it out all over the living room floor.  

            I still love Halloween, but now I know that it is a nightmare for the oral health of our nation’s children (think Poltergeist, not Casper the Friendly Ghost). Dental caries is a preventable disease, yet more than 25% of children have tooth decay in baby teeth before entering kindergarten, and by age 19, 68% of youth have experienced decay in permanent teeth. Having a ton of candy available to children every single year during Halloween does not make our job as dental care providers any easier. So what can we do other than be that cliché dentist that hands out toothbrushes?  


            Hold a Halloween Candy Buy Back!  


            Halloween Candy Buy Back is a nationwide program to get candy “off the streets.” It was started in 2005 and has grown ever since. The premise is simple: buy back the candy from the children, $1 per pound of candy. Collect all the candy and ship it (along with toothbrushes!) to troops serving our country abroad through Operation Gratitude. This organization has created a win-win by removing the freely available source of sugar while sending care packages abroad to troops who could use a piece of home. 

            Having volunteered at a Halloween Candy Buy Back before coming to dental school, I decided as a first year dental student that I wanted to have one at Stony Brook! There was one main problem…..we didn’t have any money to buy back the candy. I got creative and turned it into a Halloween Candy Trade-In and oral health event rather than a buy back. I got donations from stores for gift cards, toys, books, movie tickets, bowling passes, etc. Corporate sponsors gave donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste, animal-shaped flossers, mouthwash, bags, and dental activity books. For every pound of candy, we gave 1 dental dollar which functioned as a raffle ticket for the prizes that were donated. In our first year, despite having a small turnout, we shipped over 30lbs of candy to the troops abroad. 

            I believe this is a program that should be done at every single dental school across the country! We see the results of poor oral habits every day in our adult and pediatric patients, and we can do something fun and worthwhile to change that. More information about this amazing program can be found at Halloweencandybuyback.com  

A Dental School Epidemic

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It’s no secret that American schools are suffering from a cheating epidemic. In 1999 US News and World Report printed survey results showing that 84% of students believed they needed to cheat to get ahead in the world. How can such an innately wrong action become so commonplace among a nation?


Unlike other bad habits cheating is something that can start very small and spread exponentially to other areas. For example, once a person compromises their judgment once-- even for the slightest matter, it will undoubtedly desensitize them to the inherently wrong nature of the act. Thus making it easier for them to justify the same behavior again later on. Aside from that it also fosters a sense of complacency rather than hard work in students because the cheaters will get all the glory without any of the stresses that come along the road to genuine success.  This cheating virus has spread so deep that the reasons behind it can no longer be traced from a definable source but rather a wide array of reasons.


Students and faculty are equally to blame. Reasons stem from student’s who are lazy, who don't value their education, or sometimes cheaters who are just trying to equalize the playing field. There is also a lack of priority placed on ethics in our curriculum, possibly because it seems like common sense to most people. Although, assuming that all students are inherently built with the tools to recognize a weakness in their own reasoning is too optimistic. Especially, when students themselves are sometimes exposed to faulty decision-making of our own role models, instructors, and even from the major licensing institutions. For example, the ADEX licensing exam has long been criticized for the unethical manner students are expected to get their board patients. Making arrangements for boards patients can include neglect of a carious lesion, extortion from patients, and on some occasions even include doing a restoration on a lesion where simple fluoride treatment could have done the job.


Consider what the world would be like if every dentist chose to behave this way? Not only does it risk undue harm to boards patients but this practice also instills a notion of patient neglect in the students. Doesn't this defeat the purpose behind the “practice” of Dentistry? Yes! ADEX has a perfect duty to its examinees and the patients to provide alternative exam options that would not require us to neglect our patients.


Adex aside, what can we do now as students and faculty to improve the ethical integrity of our profession? To answer this question I would like to refer to the American Student Dental Association’s “White Paper on Professionalism and Ethics.” In order to “create an environment that fosters ethical behaviors and deters impropriety” ASDA recommends that the we periodically re-examine our ethical principles and practices, let patients’ individual needs instead of requirements govern our decisions, that schools place a greater emphasis on rewarding academic integrity as oppose to punishing academic dishonesty, and lastly that the school create and/or support student-driven ethics clubs.


From the moment we are given our white coat we are deemed with a great deal of responsibility and duty to society. In the public eye we now represent someone everyone can trust. It demands changes in the way we chose our thoughts, words and actions as professionals and individuals. Our ability to preserve integrity and make ethically sound decisions now has direct ramifications on other human beings. Furthermore, as students we are in a unique position because everything we encounter in this phase of our professional growth will mold our personal practice philosophies.  It’s more important now than ever that we hold ourselves to the highest standards and make sound decisions.  


 1. Kleiner C, Lord M. The Cheating Game: ‘Everyone’s doing it,’ from grade school to graduate school. US News & World Report, November 12, 1999.


2. Meru M. Following your moral compass: Ethics in dental school. Journal of the American Student Dental Association (Mouth). 2008, Spring; 9-22.

3. ASDA’s White Paper on Professionalism and Ethics. April 2009