Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky is grateful for the many nonprofits that support and strengthen our community. We are actively reaching out to these organizations to listen to their stories in order to share them with you. This is an ongoing project that will cover many organizations across Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties.

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Plan Ahead Smiles Program

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!