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What Is Trench Mouth?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Trench mouth is one of the most painful and serious types of gum disease you can get. Referred to as acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) by medical professionals, it’s a common, noncontagious infection of the gums that comes on quickly. 

According to The American Journal of Medicine, the name dates to World War I, during which soldiers experienced prolonged periods of trench warfare. Due to their situation, they couldn’t obtain adequate dental care. That, combined with the enormous stress they endured, led to them frequently developing painful, bleeding gums.  

Risk Factors 

Trench mouth can affect anyone who doesn't get regular dental cleanings, although it’s quite rare in nations with modern healthcare. 

According to the Journal of Dental Science Research, it’s more common in the young, particularly among severely malnourished children and young adults with human immunodeficiency virus infection. 

Trench mouth can be caused or exacerbated by a range of other factors as well. Those include inadequate nutrition, psychological stress, a compromised immune system, a history of smoking, infections in the mouth, or existing health conditions like diabetes or HIV/AIDS. 

Having a history of gingivitis (gum disease), especially in combination with poor oral hygiene and missed dental appointments, will also greatly increase your chances of developing trench mouth. 

Trench Mouth Symptoms 

As described by The Cleveland Clinic, patients may experience a combination of symptoms. These include swollen and bleeding gums, pain caused by touching or brushing the teeth, a metallic taste or smell when talking or eating, and flu-like symptoms including fever and fatigue. 

Trench Mouth Treatment  

While trench mouth sounds frightening and can be quite painful, the good news is that diagnosing it is easy, and treating it is easy and pain free. 

A simple oral exam by your dentist is enough for a diagnosis. From there, the condition can be initially treated with a cleaning of the gums and teeth by a dental hygienist. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics and an antibacterial mouth rinse to help fight the infection. 

The pain will likely decrease within days of starting treatment, and the problem should be cleared entirely in a matter of weeks. 

It’s also a good idea to schedule a follow-up appointment to make sure the infection is subsiding. 


Your dentist will advise you on the best oral health practices to follow at home. In general, good oral care involves brushing your teeth at least twice daily and flossing every day. Doing so is especially important throughout the trench mouth recovery process.  

Once you get rid of trench mouth, make sure it doesn’t come back. Schedule regular visits to a dentist or dental hygienist. That combined with good oral care practices at home will help prevent it from recurring and ensure you have a lifetime of healthy gums.  

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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