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New research reveals that exercising a little oral hygiene can go a long way toward protecting your overall health.

LOWER CANCER RISK A study in the journal The Lancet Oncology found that people with a history of periodontal (gum) disease were 14 percent more likely to develop cancers of the lung, bladder, and pancreas. Researchers speculate that the immune system’s response to gum inflammation may play a role in cancer development. Because gum disease is often painless and can go undetected, see your dentist for a checkup and cleaning at least twice a year.

FIGHT DIABETES If you suffer from gum disease, you have double the chance of developing insulin resistance (a precursor of diabetes) as people who don’t, say researchers from Stony Brook University.

PREVENT HEART PROBLEMS Tooth decay and gum disease can up the amount of oral bacteria that enters your bloodstream, leaving you vulnerable to infective endocarditis, an infection of the heart valve that may increase your risk for a stroke, finds a study in Circulation.

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