Sharlee Burch, RDH, MPH, EdD Assistant Professor, Public Health Dentistry UK

 Surdu S, Langelier M, Baker B, Wang S, Harun N, Krohl D. Oral Health in Kentucky. Rensselaer, NY: Centerfor Health Workforce Studies, School of Public Health, SUNY Albany: February 2016. Quote: “According to a 2016 PEW Report on the state of Oral Health in Kentucky, Despite statewide initiatives to improve oral health status in Kentucky’s population, there remain populations with poor oral health outcomes attributed to a lack of oral health literacy,residence in rural areas, and limited resources to pay for care. Also, while the safety net for oral health services in Kentucky has grown rapidly in recent years it is not yet as robust as in some other states. Programs like the Plan Ahead Smiles seeks to address those still in the clutches of oral disease in this state, some of the most vulnerable, our Commonwealth’s children.”


Thank you for visiting St. Joseph School.  Please include the following statement in your comments section on your website.

Plan Ahead Smiles Program visited St. Joseph School Cold Spring on Monday, January 14, 2019.  Tracy Laughner presented to our first and third grade students.  The oral health science course was interactive and fun for the students.  Tracy had a clear and positive message promoting healthy dental and oral health habits for a lifetime.  The students learned about gingivitis, cavity prevention, grandma/grandpa teeth, sealants, fluoride, nutrition, smoking prevention, and the importance of dental visits. Each student received a dental supply bag with written information for their parents explaining the program.  We would love to have Tracy join us again next year!

Helen Bailey, RN

St. Joseph School 

  Thank you Tracy!

I appreciate you driving all the way here to educate our spencer co children with your great program. It was a pleasure meeting you and feel blessed that we have someone out there with your passion for dental education!

Keep up the good work!

Cindy Hayes- Spencer County KY

 Jonathan Creech Crittenden-Mt. Zion Elementary Music Teacher   

 I felt that the presentation was sequenced in a kid-friendly manner.  By the time we reached the smoking prevention content, the students were shown different factors that can cause gum disease and tooth decay.  This made it easy for them to understand how smoking could also affect their teeth.



Focus on Plan Ahead Smiles: Hygienist uses theater, education to help kids get excited about brushing

Feb 25th, 2018 

In partnership with the Horizon Community of Funds, the NKyTribune is offering a continuing series on the region’s nonprofits.

By Tess Brown
Horizon Community of Funds

As children, many of us remember being instructed to march into the bathroom twice a day to brush our teeth.

How many of us were told what exactly was happening? Sure, we sat still and frigid, staring into the bright light over the dentist’s chair as she or he educated us as much as possible, realizing that our young brains were trying to just keep calm. How many of us really took in the message?

Tracy Laughner, public dental health hygienist, firmly believes that these conversations around oral health education are an enormously important way to prevent the many cases of dental caries and decay that affect our young neighbors. With a background in education, theater, and dental hygiene, Tracy knew it would take more than assemblies with speeches, or workbooks and videos. She knew the best way to really engage and educate young children, she would need a new strategy.

Tracy began to build. And build, and build, and craft, and spray, and glue, and cut, and shape, until she had an entire cast of characters that help her tell the story of oral health. Mr. Tooth, Mr. Plaque, the Big Brusher – a lively cast soon lined the floor of classrooms and gymnasiums across Northern Kentucky.

As a team of one, Tracy has been able to reach nearly 4,400 students in 27 schools in the last school year alone. While she is happy with her work, she is not willing to stop until she has reached as many children as possible. Each school appearance requires hours of preparation, and she does not currently charge a fee for her educational program, or for the dental supplies bags she puts together for each child.

The most common feedback she hears from adults? “I wish there was something like this when I was young,” and “I learned a lot, too!”

These adults have seen what happens to a child’s school attendance and health when they are suffering from oral health issues. These adults know that education makes an enormous difference.

Take a look at some of the fun photos and videos of the Plan Ahead Smiles program here, and consider Tracy’s work, as a staff of one, giving her time and talent to ensure healthy smiles for all.

Tracy leaves us with a final thought: Let your smile affect the world, don’t let the world affect your smile!

Shellie Burkhardt RN, BSN Ockerman Elementary School, Boone County

  “I have been a school nurse in Boone County for 5 years. Every year we have a dentist or hygienist come and speak to some of our students. However, this year I could not believe how wonderful this program was.  This year, I had the pleasure to have Tracy come and talk to our students. I was amazed with the amount of energy, effort, and commitment she had!  She did a really great job with teaching and used her dental props (teeth costumes that the students try on, large teeth/toothbrush used for demonstration, and dental equipment such as gloves, dental bibs, and eyeglasses that they see the hygienist wear). She really shows the kids what to expect and why they should not fear going to the dentist.    I really think the kids loved it!  I was surprised to see those 6 year old children sitting so quietly and listening to everything.  They were smiling and learning! Tracy seems like she has real passion to teach children the importance of dental care and uses her own money and time to help them.”

Patsy Piercefield, LPN Kenton County School Nurse

Thank You to Tracy Laughner for bringing her Plan Ahead Smiles Program to Piner Elementary.   She kept her audience of 1st and 2nd graders captivated with her props and inclusive teaching.  I'm sure our students took her message with 

them and will have healthier teeth because of it.  We are very happy to have had her come to our school!

Varlerie Barton 12/7/2017 Mt Zion Crittenden Elementary School

Tracy is very engaging with the students!  She is obviously very passionate about helping people have healthy teeth!  Her over sized props are so exciting for the kids! She did an awesome job at teaching at the kids level without compromising the science of teeth health.  I appreciate that she explained how BAD TOBACCO IS FOR YOUR TEETH as well.  Many Of our students are growing up seeing tobacco used daily so I'm so glad she talked about that!  Valerie Barton

 "As the oral health manager for the Northern Kentucky Health Department, I recommend that any school that is interested in providing health education that will impact their students for a life time to look at the Plan Ahead Smiles program. We feel that it is a great educational adjunct to the in-school preventive services that our dental programs provide."


Linda Poynter PHRDH, BHS

Oral Health Program Manager
Northern Kentucky Health Departmen

Sally A. Freed Physical Education Teacher Athletic Coordinator KCEA Representative Thomas More Colle

 Hi Tracy, just wanted to let you know that the dental program you put on for our kindergarten and first grade students was wonderful!  It was very educational, the students were really engaged with making good choices for their teeth with the foods that they choose. They really loved that you made them part of the program. I believe the students really gained knowledge from what you shared with them.  Thanks for coming to our school!   

Knox County, Belle, Harlin Elementary School teachers comment cards

Our students learned so much!  I learned a lot too!

I love the way you had a student play Doctor! The program was excellent!

Great visuals! Kids love the over-sized models and the lesson. I don't believe that a lot  of the kids are getting  dental health Kids learn alot from this program because it is very engaging

The Kids Loved it! thanks for coming!

Student friendly vocabulary with awesome student interaction.

Pamela Simonson, LPN Boone County School Nurse

 On behalf of the 1st and 2nd grade students and staff of Goodridge and Stephens Elementary I would like to say Thank you for an awesome dental presentation.  Our students were engaged and enjoyed being  active participants. The props were so creative and the gift bags for the students were much appreciated.   Tracy’s passion for this program is certainly evident by her enthusiasm in her presentation.  I definitely recommend this program to other schools !  



Kelly R. Buys, RN Thornwilde Elementary and Northpoint Elementary Schools

 I’ve been a school nurse for 9yr. and have seen several dental programs come through the schools that I’ve worked in. Tracy does an incredible job getting the kids involved and excited to learn. All her models and tools are a real asset to the program to help her explain better to the kids on their level. She’s also very reassuring to the kids about their own visit to the dentist and tries to make it feel less scary.

 All the detail and passion that Tracy puts into this program are just incredible. She’s really trying to get it through to these kids at this age, how very important it is to take care of their adult teeth- we only get one shot at good Dental hygiene and only ONE set of Adult  teeth. Thanks again Tracy- you do an incredible job and thank you in advance for hopefully saving these kiddos teeth through your teachings.  

Mrs. Kim BestPrincipal Ockerman Elementary School

 “I have heard nothing but positive responses from the classroom teachers who attended the program.  This speaks volumes as the teachers are very quick to identify those programs and speakers who they feel are worth giving up their instructional time for and those that they feel were not beneficial.” 

Tracy Laughner RDH, Plan Ahead Smiles Program

Let your smile effect the world, don't let the world effect your smile!

The most important part of your smile is you and the most important part about you needs to be shared.  

 The best part of a smile is not perfection of teeth but a happy healthy person that will share the beauty of their joy through the warmth of their smile.

Marianne McGhee Villa Madonna 

Thank you so much for the Plan Ahead Smiles Program.  Your demonstration about how to brush and floss was amazing.  The children really learned which food to eat and which foods to avoid.  They really enjoyed being part of the presentation too.  The interaction really helped them learn and made a lasting impression on them.  Thank uou for coming to Villa and we hope to see you again next year.  Thanks again,