1. 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.

    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.

  2. The patient made me do it!

    CT scans, X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds -- you name it, people are getting them far more often than necessary, leading to extra stress and excess treatments.

    And in the case of those CT scans and X-rays, patients are being dosed with high levels of radiation for no reason at all.

    Well, docs now say they've noticed all this too -- and they've come up with a novel justification for it: The patients are making them do it!

    It's as if a patient might walk in with a gun and say, "doc, I have a headache -- give me a brain scan and give it to me right now… OR ELSE."

    Obviously, that's not happening… but a new survey finds that many doctors are basically afraid of their own patients -- and that's why they're ordering up all those tests.

    Researchers say their survey of 627 family physicians and internists finds that 42 percent believe their patients are getting too much medical care -- but say they have to go along with it… because 80 percent believe they'll be sued if they don't test the hell out of their patients.

    They have a point, to a certain extent. Many patients do walk in demanding meds, tests or both.

    But whatever happened to "just say no?"

    I think I know what happened to it, and it has nothing to do with lawsuits: "No" vanished when docs realized they could buy their own testing equipment and double-dip on their patients, collecting fees and co-pays for the office visit as well as the extra bucks for all those unnecessary tests.

    Some of them even admit it -- three percent of the doctors who took the survey said money influenced their decisions to order up all those extra tests.

    I'm sure the real number is much higher, and many of the docs in the survey even admitted that as well… sort of: Thirty-nine percent say OTHER doctors would cut back on those tests and scans if they didn't stand to gain extra money from them.

    In other words, "I'm honest -- but those other guys are crooks."

    No wonder the healthcare system is a wreck.

  3. Wrinkles linked to bone loss

    What's on your skin might offer real clues about what lies beneath: Researchers say women with more wrinkles have less bone.
  4. X-rays rarely uncover back pain source

    The simple reality is that these images will almost never uncover the real source of your problem--but they're pretty good at spotting a source of income for your orthopedist, because a new study shows how they often lead to surgeries that don't actually end the pain.
  5. New X-rays pack a wallop

    Call it the world's most dangerous gimmick: Dentists and orthodontists are turning to new 3-D scanners that pack more radiation than traditional X-rays.
  6. New study calls for more radiation zaps

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    Two Americans undergo CT scans every second – 72 million zaps a year from just that one type of test – and at least a third of them are completely unnecessary.

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