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What is Trench Mouth?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications


One of the most serious and painful types of gum disease is called trench mouth. According to this OMICS International Journals page, the term trench mouth dates back to World War I, when many soldiers in the trenches developed the infection. Because they were under significant stress and did not have time to take care of their teeth or seek treatment, they often developed painful and bleeding gums.


Who Is Affected by This Condition?

Trench mouth can affect anyone who does not practice proper mouth care, or who cannot or does not access regular dental cleaning, though it is quite rare in nations with modern healthcare. It is still sometimes observed in younger males, possibly due to the reluctance to seek treatment until it becomes very painful. Other factors include a poor diet and a lack of knowledge about oral hygiene.

What Additional Factors Put a Person at Risk for Trench Mouth?

The disease can be caused or exacerbated by factors such as a compromised immune system, a history of smoking, infections in the mouth or existing health conditions like diabetes or HIV/AIDS. A history of gingivitis (gum disease), especially in combination with poor oral hygiene and missed dental appointments, can greatly increase the chances of developing this condition. Inadequate nutrition and diet choices can also be contributing factors.

What Are the Symptoms of Trench Mouth and How Is It Diagnosed?

The symptoms of trench mouth may be similar to that of gingivitis but they tend to progress faster, according to Healthline:

  • Bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
  • Bleeding in response to brushing and pressure
  • Crater-like ulcers in the mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fatigue and fever

A simple oral exam by a dentist is enough for a diagnosis with the above symptoms, and the condition can be initially treated with a cleaning of the gums and teeth by a dental hygienist. To decrease infection, a dentist may prescribe antibiotics along with an antibacterial rinse. A rinse can also be used by the dental hygienist during the cleaning to help relieve the pain caused by the infected gums.

Once the patient is relieved of the symptoms of this painful condition, regular visits to a dentist and dental hygienist will help to prevent it from occurring again and to ensure a lifetime of healthy gums.