Brush away cancer

Brush your teeth. And while you're at it, floss.

It's the kind of advice you probably heard every day from your mother. And like so many other things in life, mom was right more than even she knew, because the latest research shows that good oral hygiene can cut your risk of death by cancer and add up to 13 years to your life.

That's 13 extra years of living, and all you have to do is spend a few extra minutes a day brushing and flossing.

Swedish researchers tracked 1,390 people from the Stockholm area for up to 24 years. All of them were in their 30s and 40s when the study began, they all answered questions about lifestyle factors that could increase cancer risk -- like smoking -- and they all submitted to regular checks for dental plaque, tartar, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Just 58 of the volunteers died during the study, with 35 of those deaths due to cancer. That alone is impressive, and helps explain why Sweden is one of the healthiest nations on the planet.

But it turns out a little more brushing and flossing could have brought those numbers down even further, because the volunteers with the highest levels of dental plaque were 80 percent more likely to die of cancer than those with lower levels.

Going by life expectancies, those deaths robbed men of 8.5 extra years and stole a full 13 years off the lives of women.

The study doesn't prove that better oral hygiene could have prevented those deaths or even the cancers, but it's an interesting link -- and I don't see any reason to take a chance on this, since brushing and flossing are good habits anyway.

They help keep your smile bright and your breath fresh, and other studies have even shown that people with good oral hygiene have a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Don't skimp on this one: Use a natural fluoride-free toothpaste and mouth rinses that contain xylitol, which has been shown in studies to eradicate the bacteria that cause dental disease.