1. You're not flossing enough

    What most Americans get wrong about dental health

    Time for another edition of True Confessions!

    When was the last time you flossed? Don't worry; I'm not going to judge.

    But if your answer wasn't "this morning" or "last night," then you might have a problem.

    Everyone should floss after meals or -- at the very least -- once each day, ideally when you brush your teeth before you go to bed.

    But new research finds that only 30 percent of us floss daily.

    The rest floss only occasionally... and nearly a third of Americans don't floss at all.

    Flossing is, of course, the best way to protect your teeth -- and if you don't floss, you risk cavities and gum disease when you're younger, and much more painful and permanent problems as you get older, including tooth loss.

    But you also risk more than that.

    There are clear links between the health of your teeth and gums and the rest of your body.

    The same bacteria that cause gum disease have been found in other parts of the body, where they can also do damage.

    One study found these bacteria in the brains of people with dementia, and another study I shared with you earlier this year found a link between those germs and pancreatic cancer.

    Gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss have also been linked to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and more -- which is why one recent study found a link between tooth loss and major cardiovascular events, including death.

    Those are risks you just don't have to face -- because you can take care of this in just minutes per day... and even if you've had years of poor dental hygiene, it's not too later to turn over a new leaf and get started.

    So let me give you three pieces of advice.

    1. Brush after meals and floss daily. I'd like to say this is obvious, but the new study shows it's not obvious enough. Be sure to use fluoride-free toothpaste, and fluoride- and alcohol-free dental rinses. And if you haven't flossed regularly, or if your gums bleed when you do, make an appointment with a dentist or periodontal specialist for a "deep cleaning" of your gums, which will remove disease-causing bacteria.
    2. Avoid sugars. Sugars feed the bacteria that eat away at teeth and rot gums.
    3. Take heart-friendly supplements. They can also protect your teeth! The omega-3 fatty acid DHA can help you fight off tooth decay and gum disease, while CoQ10 can protect against gingivitis.
  2. 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.

  3. A clean mouth for a healthy heart

    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.

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