Trench Mouth: What It Is, Causes and Treatment

Trench mouth is a form of gum disease caused by severe gum infection. In most cases, the infected gum will swell and develop ulcers.

Trench mouth! You’ve probably never heard about this rare oral disease, but it ranks among the most severe dental conditions you can develop due to poor oral hygiene. This article explores what trench mouth is, its causes and symptoms, and today’s viable treatment methods.

What is Trench Mouth?

By definition, trench mouth is a form of gum disease caused by severe gum infection. In most cases, the infected gum will swell and develop ulcers, which lead to the death of your gum tissue.

Because trench mouth symptoms are almost similar to gingivitis, you may bleed more and experience intense pain when infected. Trench mouth primarily affects teens and young adults under 30 years of age, but its roots date back to the 4th century when it had names like:

  • Vincent stomatitis
  • Acute ulcerative gingivitis
  • Necrotizing gingivitis

People only referred to the disease as trench mouth after soldiers during World War 1 developed the condition from lack of access to proper dental care.

Causes of Trench Mouth

This condition usually occurs when there is too much bacteria in the mouth. Other risk factors include:

  • Excessive smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Weak immune system
  • Severe stress
  • HIV Aids

Trench Mouth Symptoms

Trench mouth symptoms closely resemble those of gingivitis, but they’re more advanced. Therefore, you should capture all your signs early to get immediate treatment and prevent further dental complications.

The common signs of trench mouth you should be on the lookout for include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Ulcers papillae on the small projections of gums between your teeth
  • Foul mouth taste
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Red, swollen and bleeding gums

How Does a Dentist Diagnose Trench Mouth?

Besides checking for the above symptoms, a dentist will likely prod your gums to see how easily they bleed. In case they find an infection, the dentist may recommend extra tests to confirm whether the bacterial infection has extended to the bone beneath the gums. HIV and immunity tests are also common during trench mouth diagnosis because they encourage bacterial growth in the mouth.

How to Treat & Prevent Trench Mouth

Trench mouth has different treatment options available, depending on the extent of your infection. For starters, if the infection is minor, you’ll probably only need professional cleaning and some pain meds to cure the disease. But in cases where an infection extends to the bone beneath the gum, you may require surgery and strong antibiotics to shake off the gum infection.

From there, you’ll need long-term monitoring by your dentist to ensure a full recovery. During this period, the doctor will emphasize good oral hygiene to prevent future infections. These include:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding smoking and tobacco products in general

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Updated: August 31, 2023

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