MANDEVILLE, La. -- Pediatric dentist Dr. Michael Von Gruben has several creative approaches to making visits to see him less scary.

He also knows Halloween can be more of a trick than a treat for parents regarding the health of their children's teeth. So three years ago, Von Gruben started the candy buy-back program.

A day or two after Halloween, children can cash in their overflow candy for $1 per pound, up to three pounds. In addition to the dollars, their name goes into a drawing for even more prizes, while the goodies go into boxes bound for Operation Gratitude.

The organization packs thousands of pounds of candy, cards and personal care items to send to thousands of troops missing out on the holidays due to deployment.

"Some really want the money, some kids are a little more reluctant than others to give it up," said Von Gruben, "I think they'd rather have the candy than the money."

But he said, "It's kind of morale boosters for them and lets them know that they're loved and supported."

Von Gruben says program participation grows every year, including in his own home.

"I have five kids too and I know they're going to pig out on candy," he said, "This is a good outlet for them to get rid of it so it doesn't stay with them all day, every day for the next couple of months."

Don't worry about the troops getting cavities with all the candy headed their way. Dr. Von Gruben is sending toothbrushes and toothpaste to treat their mouths after treating their pallets.

It's a sweet reminder of appreciation, while saving kids from toothaches and parents from Halloween headaches.

There are actually a few dentists around the New Orleans metro area donating to Operation Gratitude. The organization's website can help you find the nearest office:

You can learn more about the organization's year-round efforts here: