dental care

  1. Brushing your teeth can keep cancer away

    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.

  2. Zapped in the dental chair

    Think of all the times you've allowed a dentist to X-ray your teeth.

    Reach a certain age, and it doesn't take long before you lose count completely. Some people get zapped every year or two, simply because the dentist tells them to.

    But a new study shows what's really at stake here: People who get X-rayed the most have the highest risk of thyroid cancer.

    British researchers looking into the rising rates of this unusual condition compared 313 thyroid cancer patients in Kuwait to a similar number of people who didn't have the disease.

    Like Britain, Kuwait is experiencing its own thyroid cancer boom. Kuwait also offers free dental care, so those X-rays are there for the taking--and they appear to be taking a toll. The researchers found that patients who've received 10 or more dental X-rays have 5.4 times the thyroid cancer risk of those who've never been X-rayed by a dentist.

    Those who've had between five and nine dental X-rays had quadruple the risk, and those who've had between one and four X-ray sessions had more than double the risk, according to the study in Acta Oncologica.

    The researchers behind the new study are calling on dentists to stop routine X-rays and stop X-raying patients simply because it's their first office visit.

    Good luck with that.

    If you leave it up to your dentist, you'll get X-rayed every time you walk past his office. So don't rely on him-- rely on yourself, and not just when you visit the dentist, because he's not the only one trying to zap you.

    Radiation-based testing, from dental X-rays to CT scans and everything in between, offer doctors so much more than a detailed view of your interior. They offer a quick and often unquestioned route to some of the easiest money in medicine.

    As a result, Americans have become the most radioactive people on earth--we get half of all advanced medical procedures that involve radiation. On average, Americans now get six times more radiation than we did just a couple of decades ago, according to recent studies.

    So anytime a doctor or dentist wants to zap you with a radioactive blast, ask him why. Ask about your alternatives. And, more importantly, ask what will happen if you don't sit down for that test.

    Sometimes, these tests are necessary--but in most cases, they're not... and if your doctor's answers sound a little too much like "I just want to check" or if he uses the word "precautionary," think twice before you put on that lead apron.

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