Trench mouth is a severe, painful form of gingivitis characterized by bad breath, bleeding gums and open sores. Also called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis or Vincent's stomatitis, trench mouth is a rare sight in this day and age.
Trench mouth gets its name from World War I, as it affected soldiers in the trenches who didn't always have access to dental products. The likelihood of getting trench mouth or even knowing anyone who has it is very low. Trench mouth is very uncommon in developed countries, but is a problem in third-world nations where living conditions are poor and oral health care isn't as readily available. But for those of you who think you can get by without caring for your teeth, keep in mind that developing trench mouth is still possible.
Trench mouth is caused when you can't control the bacteria in your mouth -- an overgrowth of bacteria leads to an infection that destroys the gum tissue, which causes several dental problems if not treated. Those with bad oral habits, an unhealthy diet, extreme stress or excessive smoking habits are susceptible to this unpleasant condition, but preventing trench mouth is as easy as brushing and flossing regularly and visiting your dentist twice a year.
Let's say you aren't very fond of taking care of your teeth and are at risk for trench mouth. In that case you should prepare yourself for the following symptoms:
Gum Problems -- Gums appear red and swollen and are very susceptible to bleeding. Painful gums make it difficult to eat, speak and brush your teeth.
Mouth Ulcers -- Open sores appear on the gums between teeth and along the gum line.
Gray Film on Gums -- A layer of gray film formed from decomposed gum tissue covers the gums.
Bad Breath -- Not only will you experience a bad taste in your mouth, but others will notice it too.
Non-Dental Symptoms -- Trench mouth may also be accompanied by a fever and swollen lymph nodes in your head, neck and jaw.
When not treated, the infection will spread beyond the gums, destroying the jawbone and leading to tooth loss. Trench mouth can also damage other soft tissues in your mouth, including the cheeks and lips. Just like other forms of gum disease, trench mouth may affect your overall health -- the infection can enter your bloodstream via your gums and attack other parts of your body.
Getting Out of the Trenches
Luckily, trench mouth can be cured. Once diagnosed, dentists often prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection, and provide a gum disease treatment to help gums heal. Your dental treatment may start with a cleaning to remove any debris from the oral cavity. Scaling and root planing is needed to remove bacteria, dental plaque and dental tartar from below the gum line. In extreme cases, gum surgery may be needed to repair damaged gum tissue. At-home care is extremely important to a speedy recovery. Pain relievers may be prescribed to make brushing and flossing easier, which then helps prevent trench mouth from returning.
Even if you don't have to worry about trench mouth, it's important to take care of yourself. You may not be susceptible to trench mouth, but you do have a much greater chance of suffering from its cousin, gum disease. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits will keep all types of dental problems where they belong -- in the trenches!