It's no secret that people with clean teeth and healthy gums have a lower risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, and two new studies again confirm the link.

In the first, researchers in Taiwan found that people who get a scaling done less than every two years have a 24-percent lower risk of a heart attack and a 13-percent lower risk of a stroke than people who never get the procedure.

Now, if you're asking, "what's a scaling," then I'd say you're probably overdue for one.

It's basically a more intense cleaning that goes between the teeth and under the gums -- and as someone who's spent plenty of time squirming in that vinyl chair, I can tell you that it'll hurt a bit if you've slacked off on the flossing.

You don't need to get scaled every year to get the benefits, though. The researchers say their review of data on more than 100,000 patients found that those who had the procedure every other year were still 13 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 9 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who never had it done.

In a second new study, researchers in Sweden found that people who suffer from more gum infections have a 53-percent higher risk of heart attack than those with fewer gum infections, and people who have bleeding gums have a higher risk of stroke.

The same study found that people who lose 11 teeth or more for whatever reason have a 69-percent higher risk of heart attack than people with all or most of their chompers. Those who lost the most teeth also had a higher risk of congestive heart failure.

Obviously, you put it all together and it's important to keep your mouth clean -- and not just to avoid bad breath, painful cavities, and the loss of your teeth.

But don't just rush off to any old dentist. Take the time to find someone who can care for your teeth without the use of fluoride and mercury, and with minimal use of X-rays.

A good place to start your search is with the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology.