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Trench Mouth

Trench mouth is the result of severe bacterial infection of the gums. The gums are swollen, ulcerated and bleeding. The condition is extremely painful and may get worse if not treated immediately. Poor dental hygiene is the primary cause of the problem which allows harmful microorganisms to flourish and cause infection. Other factors that may cause this problem are smoking, poor nutrition, stress and weak immunity.

Trench mouth responds well to treatment and recovery generally takes two weeks. The treatment aids in dealing with the symptoms as well as in addressing the underlying infection. The regimen usually involves taking pain medications and antibiotics. Topical anesthetics also help reduce pain when drinking and eating; while cleaning the teeth and gums regularly is also part of the treatment. Surgery is sometimes needed to treat severely affected gums.

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What causes trench mouth ?

Trench mouth occurs due to the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms living inside the oral cavity. Good and bad bacteria both thrive inside the mouth. Problem arises when bad bacteria grow out of control and cause infection by destroying the delicate gum tissues that support the teeth. It is not yet known exactly how this occurs, but it is believed that toxins and enzymes released by these bacteria play an important role. Ulcers, which contain bacteria, decaying tissues and food debris, may develop in the gums and cause foul taste in the mouth, bad breath and intense pain.

A lot of factors can cause bacterial overgrowth in the mouth which results in trench mouth. These include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Stress
  • Weak immunity
  • Mouth or throat infections

Trench mouth symptoms

Trench mouth does not initially cause any discomfort that is why it is often neglected. However, affected individuals may notice having a bad taste in the mouth and bad breath. The condition becomes apparent when the infection has aggravated and is causing:

  • Fever
  • Swollen gums
  • Intense gum pain especially when eating or drinking
  • Grayish material on the gums
  • Bleeding gums especially when pressed
  • Crater-like ulcers

The patient may also find the lymph nodes in the jaw, head or neck swollen as well. It is very important to visit the dentist as soon as symptoms develop. Keep in mind that trench mouth is a severe gum infection which quickly worsens if treatment is delayed and causes a variety of problems like:

  • Difficulty in eating and swallowing
  • Dehydration
  • Pain
  • Damaged gum tissue
  • Spread of infection and damage to the bone
  • Tooth loss

How many people suffer from it?

Trench mouth is considered rare these days. Even so, thousands are still affected by this condition, especially those between 15 and 35 years old who receive inadequate nutrition and live in severely impoverished regions. This severe form of gum infection acquired its name from the World War I soldiers who were not able to practice good oral hygiene because they were trapped in the trenches for a long time. The condition is known for several names, such as Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG), Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG) and Vincent’s stomatitis.

Studies showed that trench mouth occurs more frequently in people who:

  • Do not practice proper oral hygiene
  • Have poor nutrition or are malnourished
  • Suffer from mouth, tooth or throat infection
  • Smoke or chew tobacco
  • Suffer from emotional stresses
  • Have mononucleosis
  • Have weak immunity, like HIV and cancer patients

How does early detection of the problem affect the outcome of treatment?

Early detection helps in preventing complications from happening and restores the healthy state of the gums. Trench mouth responds well to treatment and full recovery might be achieved in two weeks time. On the other hand, if treatment is delayed, the infection will aggravate and severely affect the tissues in the lips, cheeks and jawbone.

The dentist will thoroughly examine the condition, looking for inflamed gums, crater-like ulcers and damaged gum tissues. He or she will also check for swollen lymph nodes and other signs of infection. Dental X-ray helps determine the extent of damage on the tissues and bones. If the dentist suspects undiagnosed medical problems that could have triggered the trench mouth, he or she may refer the patient to a qualified doctor for some blood work and diagnostic tests.

Trench Mouth Treatment

The treatment for trench mouth works in preventing the infection from getting worse by controlling further bacterial overgrowth. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to kill these harmful bacteria. Pain medications and topical anesthetics are also given to help the patient bear the pain and provide pain relief when eating or drinking. Observing good oral hygiene by regular tooth brushing and flossing also helps speed up the recovery. The dentist may also recommend debridement, a dental procedure wherein dead tissues are removed to reduce pain. Root planning might also be conducted to remove deep-seated plaque and tartar.

Trench Mouth Pictures

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