Iowa Alumni Magazine | October 2004 | People

Candy Crusader: Carol Moreno

By Kathryn Howe

Dental disease is practically 100 percent preventable, yet Carol Moreno has seen patients as young as 18 who need dentures.

This is why, for the past 14 years, she’s hosted a “Halloween Health Day” at her West Liberty dental office, giving $1 of her own money to every child who surrenders a pound of candy. It’s her way of combating a sugary enemy that helps make tooth decay the most common chronic childhood disease.

The candy trade usually nets an average 26 pounds of Halloween loot, which Moreno promptly dumps in the garbage bin. In addition to a buck per pound, she offers the children a special treat bag that includes a toothbrush, a small novelty gift, and a healthy snack alternative—popcorn.

"Children who eat a lot of candy and drink soda pop have a lot of cavities,” says Moreno, 79BS, 83DDS. “They’re drowning their teeth in sugar all day. We’re getting candy off the streets and into the dumpster.”

Over the years, Moreno has found that kids are more than willing to part with their precious treats for a little incentive. The day is a fun event for staff, as well. Everyone wears a costume, including Moreno, who is usually decked out as a colorful clown. This year, however, she’s considering Raggedy Ann.

Also part of this fall’s festivities, staff will perform “tooth prints” on children whose parents request them. The public safety campaign involves taking a waxed impression of a child’s bite, which also preserves a sample of saliva. The tooth print supplies parents with their child’s dental and DNA identification, should the need arise.

By the end of the day, Moreno hopes she’ll have netted enough candy for a record high—and that her community service message continues to protect vulnerable teeth.

"This is our way of making a difference,” she says.