Trench Mouth: What It Is – What Causes It – What To Do About It


What Is Trench Mouth?

Rarely occurring these days, trench mouth got its name during World War I. Soldiers stuck in the trenches had little means to practice good oral hygiene, and were frequently affected by this painful infection of the gums and mouth tissues. The symptoms come about suddenly in most cases, but they don’t take long to worsen. In can manifest so quickly in fact that the painful ulcers that develop can cause tissue to begin dying by the time it’s diagnosed. Because of this, its medical name is acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG).

Symptoms Of Trench Mouth

Symptoms begin suddenly, most often beginning with bad breath and a very foul taste in the mouth. If these symptoms appear where they did not before, be sure to ramp up your oral hygiene to help stave it off. Other symptoms of trench mouth that you may notice if it continues to develop are:

  • Severe gum pain
  • Bleeding from gums when pressed even slightly
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Pain when eating and swallowing
  • Gray film over the gums
  • Crater-like sores/ulcers between the teeth and gums
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the head, neck, and jaw

Dangers Of Trench Mouth

Because trench mouth manifests so quickly, the real danger lies in the potential for tooth loss due to the rapid loss of gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. If you begin to experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult your dentist or doctor immediately. If proper measures are not taken quickly enough, the infection can spread to the cheeks and face. This can cause further tissue destruction, and can complicate things to a much higher degree.

What Causes Trench Mouth?

Excessive harmful bacteria that builds up in the mouth is the main cause of trench mouth. This can be expedited by factors such as smoking and oral infections. Other risk factors are emotional stress, poor oral hygiene, poor diet, and lack of sleep. Immune system deficiencies like HIV and AIDS can make you more susceptible as well as smoking.

How To Prevent Trench Mouth

The best way to prevent trench mouth from occurring is by ensuring that you are performing good oral hygiene, and visiting your dentist for professional cleanings at least every 6 months. If you have recurring problems, your dentist may recommend more frequent visits, or changes to your nutrition and exercise to improve your overall health.

Treatment Of Trench Mouth

In order to treat trench mouth, you will need to execute a very thorough oral hygiene regimen. Be absolutely sure that you brush your teeth at least twice a day (preferably between meals), floss daily, and use an antibacterial mouth rinse to reach all the places your brush cannot. Over the counter pain relievers can help to ease discomfort, as can rinses of salt or hydrogen peroxide. Your dentist or doctor may prescribe a prescription antibiotic if the infection is severe enough to cause a fever.

The most important thing to do regarding trench mouth is to practice good preventative care. It got its name from situations where soldiers could not perform oral hygiene, and the painful mouth ulcers that appeared from this neglect should be a warning that as the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and use a mouthwash to eliminate all the bacteria from the mouth and throat that can lead to this. Be careful to steer clear of most name brand products, as most actually contain ingredients that can create the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish. If you’re practicing good oral hygiene and still having difficulty, seek out natural products that don’t contain the harmful additives.

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