Trench mouth is a very serious form of gum disease that can occur in patients with gingivitis. Unlike other forms of periodontal disease that may take a long time to cause severe discomfort, this condition (sometimes called necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis) is very painful and difficult to ignore. It’s not common in the United States, but if you have it you will definitely notice!

How do I identify trench mouth?

Trench mouth begins with the symptoms of gingivitis. These include redness and swelling of the gums as well as a foul taste in your mouth and bad breath. As the condition becomes worse, you may experience:

  • Pain in your gums
  • Bleeding even from light pressure
  • Pain during chewing or swallowing
  • Large, crater shaped ulcers on your gums filled with food debris and plaque
  • Gray, filmy tissue on your gums where cells have begun to die
  • Fever, swollen lymph nodes around the face and neck and other signs of infection

Onset can be rapid and symptoms may get worse quickly. You should see a dentist immediately if you have any of the warning signs listed above.

What is causing my trench mouth?

Your mouth is always teeming with many different types of bacteria. Sometimes, these germs attack the gum tissue. The reasons aren’t always clear, but factors that impact your immune system may put you at risk. These include:

  • High levels of stress
  • Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
  • Poor nutrition over a long period of time
  • Lack of proper oral hygiene that allows gum diseases like gingivitis to flourish
  • Other infections in the mouth or throat
  • Autoimmune disorders

What can my dentist do about trench mouth?

Your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to quickly kill the bacteria that are infecting your gums. Dead and dying gum tissue will be carefully removed in an out-patient procedure called debridement. This helps stop infection, as well as reducing pain and inflammation. You may need reconstructive gum surgery later if an extensive amount of tissue has died. Your dentist may also recommend both oral and topical pain relievers to reduce your discomfort so you can care for your teeth and gums properly. Further treatment includes root scaling and planing to remove any tartar buildup that is contributing to gingivitis.

Can I treat trench mouth at home?

There are a number of remedies you can use to relieve trench mouth symptoms. However, these are recommended only after you have seen a dentist to evaluate your condition and get the infection under control. Your dentist may suggest daily use of anti-septic mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide to control bacteria and saltwater rinses to ease pain and irritation. Ongoing home treatment always includes thorough, gentle brushing and flossing once your gums have healed enough to make this possible.