Alex Rodriguez, former star of the New York Yankees, and one of the most recognized figures in baseball internationally, has something in common with 46% of adults over 30 in the United States: gum disease or periodontitis.
That figure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is much higher in the sector of the population over 65 years old.
A-Rod, as he is also known, who is 47, said this week during an appearance on CBS' CBS Mornings that he was recently diagnosed with periodontitis.
The disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults, according to the CDC.
Alex Rodriguez, sportscaster and former New York Yankees star, poses on the board of the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Sept. 8, 2019.Getty Images
Now in his new role as a sportscaster, Rodriguez said "the image can be misleading" and said that during a recent visit to his dentist he learned he had the disease, which affects about 65 million people in the United States.
To alert the public, Rodriguez partnered with product company OraPharma to wage a crusade against periodontitis, or periodontal disease, a gum infection that damages the tissues surrounding teeth and helps keep them in place.
A-Rod's advice: maintain good oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly.
A silent disease
Gum disease is often silent, meaning its symptoms usually don't appear until the advanced stage, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.
However, conditions such as bleeding while brushing or flossing, as well as red or swollen gums, persistent bad breath, loose or separated teeth and changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite, can be alarming signs, according to the Academy.
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Gingivitis is the mildest form of this disease and causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed. However, discomfort is few at this stage and can be reversed with good oral hygiene or treatment.
Gingivitis that is not treated in time can develop into periodontitis, producing an infection that destroys the tissue and bone that supports the teeth. At this stage you can experience bleeding, swelling, pain in gums and even the detachment of the teeth.
Usually, poor brushing habits or poor flossing allow a sticky film of bacteria to form on the teeth as a result of food debris. That plaque builds up and hardens, forming the tartar that can cause the disease, explain the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar, experts say.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, smoking is the most important risk factor for gum disease and can make your treatment less successful. Other risk factors include hormonal changes in girls and women; genetics and diseases such as diabetes or AIDS and their medications.
The case of Alex Rodríguez
Is Alex Rodriguez's diagnosis related to his habit as a baseball player of chewing tobacco? The former Yankees player told People magazine that this was not the cause of his illness and that it can affect "anyone."
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"I don't want readers to think this happens to you if you smoke tobacco... if you get wet," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez told People that, contrary to what many people might think, he didn't use tobacco during his athletic career. "I just didn't like chewing tobacco," he said. "I think I tried it once and vomited and never tried again."
It is known the habit of many professional baseball players to chew tobacco or use cleats filled with nicotica to keep their mouth moist on the field. Medical experts consider this practice harmful.
"Chewing tobacco damages the gums around the teeth. It can cause gum recession and damage to the roots of the teeth, which require extraction," Dr. Bryce Williams, an oral surgeon at the University of Utah Hospital, said in a podcast from the education center.