My teeth have given me plenty of problems over the years, but I can't say I blame them.

After they were subjected to the massive quantities of sugar I consumed in my younger years, they would have been justified to leave my mouth years ago. Some of them did.

The ones that stuck it out are truly survivors, having survived more candy that Willie Wonka could have made in his chocolate factory in a year.

My mother was a terrific cook, but I cannot say that I recall the particulars of her traditional ham dinners on Easter with anything remotely resembling my memories of Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas Day baked breaded chicken.

There is a good reason for this. I was on such a sugar high as a result of my Easter basket binging, that I would have been hard-pressed to recall my name if my dad had taken roll call at dinner.

Halloween was a terrific holiday for my fellow candy guzzlers, but it didn't come close to Easter as my favorite sweet holiday.

Easter had two primary advantages over Halloween. Not only did we get more candy on Easter morning, we could remain comfortably attired in our PJs since the Easter Bunny made deliveries.

(This was before the idea of "trickle-down economics," but our patronage of the Easter Bunny helped to maintain three jobs - the Bunny's, our dentist's and the Tooth Fairy's for those teeth that even our dentist could not save.)

Of course, this made the scene in our home on Easter morning much like the stairway stampede that occurred every Christmas morning.

The only difference was about 10,000 to 20,000 calories.

My brothers Phil and Dave, and later our sister Mary Jo, and I did not really need to race down the stairs to claim our individual Easter baskets momentarily undisturbed on the sofa.

We each had our own personal basket, but it would not have mattered one bit if we attacked any of the others.

Our mother and dad apportioned each basket with the wisdom of Solomon and the accurate counting of a certified public accountant.

Each contained virtually the same number of the various hollow and solid, white and regular chocolate bunnies, eggs and crosses, marshmallow peeps, malted eggs and other sugary goodies.

I'm not sure, but I think each of us was given the exact same distribution of black, red, green and blue jelly beans. This candy was usually the last to go, since chocolate got top priority.

By that time, we were so saturated with sugar that we were in no mood to sort and count jelly beans. Not infrequently, there would be vintage jelly beans discovered in the baskets the next spring when our folks brought the containers down from the attic.

You can be certain there wasn't even the tiniest remnant of chocolate anywhere in the basket. Each of us had his or her own system of candy gluttony, but the end result was the same.

I used to start off with the small, solid-chocolate eggs wrapped in colorful aluminum. This method was abandoned the Easter after I had started to get amalgam fillings in my teeth - probably due to previous Easter candy.

I would get carried away with the aluminum-wrapped candy and start popping the chocolate in my mouth before I had completely unwrapped it. When the aluminum met up with the metal in the fillings, the pain was enough to make me jump much higher than a bunny can hop.

It was almost enough to make me slow down in my quest to become an Easter basket case. Almost.

Next, I went for a hollow-chocolate bunny. There wasn't much chewing involved, so this gave my mouth a bit of a rest.

This was followed by a couple (OK, a dozen or so) milk chocolate malted eggs.

I could have taken it easy and kept an egg or two in my cheek until the candy shell, chocolate and malted milk balls in the center dissolved, but what would have been the fun of that?

I might do one or two that way, but I would soon be impatiently crunching away.

Before I would start my favorite Easter candy item, I would clear my palate with a piece or two of white chocolate.

Then, I would be ready for the main event - a 1-pound, solid chocolate bunny. Some kids would cheat by having their moms chop up the bunny into bite-size squares, but that's not very sporting.

I would start gnawing away at the bunny's ears and gradually work my way down to the tips of its chocolate toes. By this time, the candy I had eaten from my Easter basket was just about down to the tips of my toes.

I realize that this is a lot to grasp, so I would be happy to come to your house next Easter morning to teach your kids or grandkids the proper way of clearing out a basket.

Just give me some advance notice. I have to arrange to have my dentist and the Tooth Fairy placed on standby alert.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)