Trench Mouth

What is Trench Mouth ?

It is a serious kind of gingivitis which can result in painful infection, bleeding from gums as well as ulcerations. Though trench mouth is rarely recorded in developed nation it is said to be common in developing countries that have improper nutrition and poor state of living. Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis or NUG is another technical name for ‘trench mouth’. The condition got its name because this condition was prevalent in soldiers stuck in trenches during World War I. Though very serious, the condition may not be contagious.

Trench mouth is a serious gum infection which is caused due to bacteria built up in the mouth. It is often characterized with painful bleeding gums. Your mouth normally contains a balanced of good bacteria, viruses and fungi. Due to improper dental hygiene the harmful bacteria may grow and cause such issues. Redness, sensitivity and bleeding of gums are symptoms of gingivitis and trench mouth is fast progression of this condition. Though the condition is extremely rare it may affect people between age group of 15 to 35 years.

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There are several signs that indicate prevalence of trench mouth. These symptoms are as follows –

  • Severe pain in gums
  • Bleeding from gums even due to slightest pressure
  • Redness of gums
  • Gums becoming swollen
  • Pain experienced when swallowing or eating
  • Gray film occurring on the gums
  • Crater like sores or ulcers appearing between your teeth and gums
  • Experiencing foul taste in mouth
  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Malaise
  • Lymph nodes becoming swollen particularly around neck, jaw or head

Causes of Trench Mouth

Your mouth normally contains microorganism such as fungi, bacteria and viruses which are healthy if biomechanics of the body is functioning normally. If immune system becomes deprived of its capacity to fight infection then chances of these bacteria turning harmful increases. This may serve as a factor for occurrence of ‘trench mouth’ as harmful bacteria grow unrestrictedly causing infection in your gums. Gingiva is delicate tissue of gums supporting teeth; these may get destroyed due to infection.  Larger ulcers may appear on your gums which are filled with food debris, bacteria and decaying tissues. This will lead to intense pain, halitosis and foul taste.

Trench mouth causes are said to be:

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Inappropriate nutrition
  • Malfunctioned or weakened immune system
  • Mouth infection, teeth infection or even throat infection

If these conditions are left untreated then they may aggravate to form infection damaging gum tissues. Affected individual will also suffer from problems such as ulcers, tooth loss, etc.

 How is trench mouth diagnosed?

In usual cases the dentist can diagnose the condition just by looking at the gums and teeth. Sometimes you may have to undergo dental x-ray examination to determine whether any bone loss has occurred due to infection. In case if the dentist cannot determine the cause of the condition then he may suggest you to GP who will examine and try to rule out the cause. He may then suggest you blood tests and additional screenings. This will ensure whether you have any undiagnosed and unaddressed condition, especially HIV which may have aggravated to trench mouth.

 Trench mouth treatment

Trench mouth treatment is often extremely effective and in a couple of week complete healing is experienced. In cases of immune system weakness the healing may take longer time. As a part of treatment you should thoroughly but gently clean gums and teeth. You can also rinse your mouth using antiseptic solutions. You will have to go for ‘scaling’ and ‘root planning’ that are tooth cleaning procedures done under medical setting. This procedure helps in removing accumulated plaque and tartar from the gum-line. It also makes the roughened tooth area smoother so that it does not catch food debris and bacteria. After the procedure your gum becomes tender and your dentist will prescribe you hydrogen peroxide mouthwash for rinsing daily. To prevent further issues brush your teeth in the morning and before bedtime to prevent the condition in future.

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Dentists may also suggest medicines for trench mouth. Since there is an overgrowth of bacteria in case of trench mouth experts may also prescribe antibiotics to deal with bacteria and avoid infection from metastasizing. It is also important to get pain reliever to control the pain and practice daily dental care. Your doctor may either prescribe you a good pain reliever or may ask you to get any over-the-counter pain killer. There are also topical anesthetic which can be applied on the teeth. Your dentist may probably suggest you such topical applications to suppress the pain. Antiseptic mouth wash are also suggested by dentists to treat trench mouth. There are prescription antiseptic mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine. These are helpful as they can decrease bacteria and speed-up the recovery process.

Surgery is rarely required. Though gums may heal and become normal through skillful cleaning and appropriate home care, in case of severe damages to the gum surgery may be suggested. Such surgeries are helpful as they can repair the gums.


People who are addicted to smoking or other tobacco products are at greater risk of developing the condition. People who have throat infection or mouth infection may also develop trench mouth. The chief factor that may contribute to cause the condition is improper dental hygiene and poor nutrition to the body. A person with oral infection and weakened immune system is prone to development of trench mouth.

Prevention for Trench mouth

There are certain ways in which occurrence of trench mouth can be prevented. To start with, follow good oral hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth at least two times a day. You should surely brush your teeth before going to bed, cleaning away food-debris from dinner that you had. Getting regular dental cleaning can help in maintaining hygiene and may also rule out any underlying dental problem. You can use antiseptic mouthwash not only when doctor prescribe you but also regularly.

You should strictly avoid smoking or using any tobacco product. It is recorded that tobacco is the leading factor in cause trench mouth. Maintaining a good diet is also beneficial to a significant extent. Include augmented amount of fruits and vegetables in your daily meal. Choose to eat whole grains rather than refined grains. Eating health proteins from fish and legumes is also beneficial. Avoid carbonated drinks and alcohol. Stress has both mental and physical manifestations which is why it is crucial to control stress generally.

Trench mouth is a condition which can be controlled easily. As mentioned above it may take merely two to three weeks for the condition resolve. But you need to surely obtain professional medical assistance. Hence, if you notice any dental anomaly, then consult a dentist immediately.

Trench Mouth Pictures

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