Cut your cancer risk in 5 minutes

Ever peek over at the tools in the dentist's tray? Some of those things don't look so much like medical instruments as they do medieval torture implements!

The scariest is the one that looks like a stick with a little hook on each end.

What it's used for even sounds like medieval torture: He can slip that little hook down under your gums to scrape out pockets of nasty plaque and tartar to treat or prevent gum disease.

Sounds painful, right?

They numb the gums, so it's not as bad as it might seem. But it's no picnic either, so take good care of your gums to help ensure you never need this procedure.

If you do happen to need it... if you're at risk for or have gum disease... don't hesitate about getting it, because new research shows how gum disease can lead to something far worse.

And ladies, you might want to break out the floss and get to work right now -- because this study shows how gum disease can increase your risk of some of the nation's deadliest forms of cancer.

Overall, the risk of cancer in women jumps by 14 percent when you have gum disease.

That's already far too high.

But when you get into the specifics, some of the numbers are even worse -- especially in the parts of your body closest to the scene of the grime, where you'll face TRIPLE the risk of cancer in your esophagus.

That's a condition so deadly that your odds of surviving five years are just 18 percent.

Gum disease will also increase your risk of cancers in the lung, breast, and gallbladder as well as melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

While the biggest risk is in women who have smoked, don't take too much comfort in that. The study also finds gum disease will increase the chance of cancer even in women who've never taken a puff.

The message here, of course, is to take good care of your gums, especially since gum disease has been linked to heart attack and stroke risk.

I know going to the dentist is about as pleasant as... well... going to the dentist. But if you're not in there regularly, it's time to schedule your next cleaning.

If you're showing some signs of gum disease, hop onto that chair, strap in, and let them do the deep cleaning you need.

And at home, don't forget the basics: Brush after meals with a fluoride-free toothpaste, and floss daily.

Good oral hygiene takes about five minutes a day. Given the risks, it could be the best investment in time you could ever make.