Smile Fundamentals

Even if it’s been a while since you’ve seen a dentist, you know that whichever doctor you choose, they’ll ask about your oral hygiene routine: “are you brushing and flossing every day?” While this question has been with the profession longer than Dr. Shull has been practicing, the importance of these seemingly small habits, along with regular checkups and professional cleanings, are shown to have a much larger impact than dentists of yesteryear may have realized. The mouth and body are connected, and the health of one is sure to reflect the health of the other.

Oral Hygiene

We find a great deal of our patients still benefit from pointers on products and proper technique when it comes to oral hygiene routines, and we’re happy to provide them!

Following these guidelines will disrupt the bad bacteria in your mouth:

  1. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and be sure to replace them as bristles fray.
  2. Brush for two minutes at least twice a day, and don’t skip your tongue.
  3. Wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking. Let the fluoride in your toothpaste do its work of building up your enamel. Eating or drinking not only washes away the fluoride but causes an acid attack that damages your enamel.
  4. Floss once a day. Curve floss around each tooth in a c-shape and slide it slowly back and forth, not up and down. Avoid using the same section of floss between different teeth, as that will redeposit plaque and bacteria.
  5. Optional: use a tongue scraper. While a toothbrush is the best tool for your teeth and gums, a tongue scraper is specially designed to remove plaque and bacteria from your tongue. Though the practice is helpful for everyone, especially consider adding this to your routine if you suffer from bad breath or plaque build-up.
  6. Optional: rinse with mouthwash. Avoid rinses with alcohol, as they inhibit saliva production.
  7. When toothbrush & floss aren’t available, rinse with water. Swishing and spitting after eating can reduce plaque and acid buildup throughout the day.

Gum Disease

Warnings against gingivitis are printed on most oral hygiene products you use, but what does the word mean? Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease – and gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss.

If you experience bleeding while you floss and/or brush, you have gum disease. You’re not alone–it’s estimated that 50% of Americans do, and that rate jumps to 70% in adults 65 and older. We don’t want you to panic, but we do want you to fight back. Luckily, gum disease is treatable and preventable.

Oral Cancer Screenings

One American per hour dies from oral cancer. Frequent, thorough examinations with your Columbia dentist can help us spot abnormalities in their early stages, which is crucial because the deadliness of oral cancer is largely a result of late detection.

Oral Cancer Awareness

  • 25% of oral cancer patients have none of the risk factors mentioned above
  • Men are 2 times more likely than women to develop oral cancer
  • Oral cancer is the cause of over 9,750 deaths in the US per year
  • 40% of oral cancer patients die within 5 years of being diagnosed
  • 65% of oral cancers are linked to HPV
  • Early diagnosis can double your chances of survival


If you play contact sports, suspect you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep, or find yourself clenching your jaw (also known as bruxism), a custom-fitted mouthguard is for you! A custom-fitted mouthguard can not only prevent teeth from being knocked loose but can also reduce headaches and migraines that accompany TMJ aggravation.

Especially for players of contact sports, a custom-fitted mouthguard is a must! Store-bought mouthguards – either pre-fitted or “boil-and-bite” – have not been shown to provide you with the protection you and your teeth need. Though more costly than over-the-counter mouthguards, the materials in custom-fitted mouthguards are more durable than those you’ll find in the store, meaning they’ll last longer and will save you money over time. A mouthguard customized by Dr. Shull to fit your unique bite will be comfortable to wear for hours at a time and will keep your smile safe and intact.