The heart-healthy benefits of a clean mouth

It's the kind of research only a dentist could love: People who get the most intensive dental cleanings have a lower risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The more cleanings you get, the lower your risk -- with patients who get scalings every year having a 24-percent lower risk of a heart attack and a 13-percent lower risk of a stroke than people who never have the procedure, according to a new study out of Taiwan.

Scalings, if you don't know, are the hellishly painful "deep cleanings" in which a dentist pulls plaque and other junk from between your teeth and gums using sharp instruments that would be right at home in a medieval torture chamber.

I can't help but think that some dentists enjoy using those instruments just a little too much -- but if that was the only way to get the job done, I'd say strap in and brace for the pain.

After all, this isn't the first study to find a clear link between a clean mouth and a healthy heart.

But don't make that appointment yet -- because visiting a dentist is like having lunch in a toxic waste dump: mercury, fluoride, radiation and more, all aimed right at your kisser.

You might leave with clean teeth, but at what price?

You can do a much better job of keeping your teeth and gums in tip-top shape, and all you need is baking soda and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.

Mix the two into a paste and gently massage it into and around your teeth with your fingertips. Then, rinse with (but don't swallow) the peroxide. Don't forget to floss, and be sure to use a water irrigator like the Waterpik.

Believe me, your trips to the dentist will be quick and painless -- and you'll never have to suffer through a scaling.

One more note on this: The most careful dental habits in the world won't do a thing to protect your teeth or your heart from the ravages of a diet loaded with sugar and other processed carbs.

In other words, don't just watch your mouth -- watch what you put in it as well, and you'll avoid both the dentist and the cardiologist.