Alex Rodriguez reveals gum disease: What to know about the diagnosis

Alex Rodriguez is opening up about a condition he shares with nearly half of all American adults.

The 47-year-old baseball star and sports commentator revealed during an appearance on “CBS Mornings” on Wednesday that he was recently diagnosed with early-stage gum disease.

“Appearances can be deceiving,” he said with a smile. “I went to the dentist recently and wasn't thinking about any gum disease. The dentist told me the news, and then I found out that more than 65 million Americans have this gum disease.”

Rodriguez, also known as A-Rod, has partnered with health supplement company OraPharma to help raise awareness. He urged people to take care of their teeth and visit a dentist.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46% of U.S. adults age 30 and older have some form of gum disease, and it becomes more common after age 65.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis or periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that damages the tissue around the teeth that helps keep them in place.

If left untreated, the condition may worsen, causing pain when chewing, or even loosening or loss of teeth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss.

While healthy gums are strong and fit tightly around the teeth, symptoms of gum disease include swollen or puffy gums, tender gums, gums that bleed easily, and gums that appear bright red, dark red, or dark purple, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Other symptoms include bad breath and gum recession, where the gums pull away from the teeth.

What causes gum disease?

The National Institutes of Health explains that gum disease is often caused by poor brushing and flossing habits, which cause plaque to build up on the teeth.

“If plaque is not removed daily, it can harden and form tartar, and the buildup of tartar can lead to gum disease,” the National Institutes of Health's website reads.

Other risk factors include genetics, hormonal changes, certain existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and its medications), and most importantly, smoking, according to the National Institutes of Health. It also states that smoking can make gum disease treatment less successful.

Can gum disease be treated?

Although gum disease cannot be cured, it can be controlled with certain treatment options.

“The main goal of treatment is to control the infection,” the NIH says. The number and type of treatments will vary, depending on the extent of gum disease.” He noted that any treatment requires patients to maintain good oral hygiene.

To help prevent gum disease or improve the chances of successful treatment, the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • floss every day
  • Get regular dental checkups

Sarah Lynch Baldwin contributed to this report.

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