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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Dentistry Trench mouth

Trench mouth

Trench mouth is a severe form of gingivitis that causes painful, infected, bleeding gums and ulcerations. Although trench mouth is rare today in developed nations, it's common in developing countries with poor nutrition and poor living conditions.

Trench mouth is formally known as Vincent's stomatitis, acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) and necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG).

Signs and symptoms of trench mouth can include

  • Severe gum pain
  • Bleeding from gums when pressed even slightly
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Pain when eating or swallowing
  • A gray film on your gums
  • Crater-like sores (ulcers) between your teeth and on your gums
  • A foul taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes around your head, neck or jaw.
  • Poor oral hygiene. Failing to brush and floss regularly can lead to a buildup of plaque and debris that help harmful bacteria thrive.
  • Poor nutrition. Not getting enough nutrients can make it difficult for your body to fight infection. Malnourished children in developing countries are particularly at risk of trench mouth.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco. These can harm the blood vessels of your gums, making it easier for bacteria to thrive.
  • Throat, tooth or mouth infections. If you already have an active infection, such as gingivitis, and don't treat it effectively, the infection can progress into trench mouth.
  • Emotional stress. Emotional stress can weaken your immune system, making it difficult for your body's natural defenses to keep harmful bacteria in check.
  • A compromised immune system.


Complications and problems that trench mouth may cause or be associated with include

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble eating
  • Pain when brushing teeth
  • Destruction of gum tissue
  • Tooth loss
  • Progression into advanced oral diseases that can severely damage bone and gum tissue.


Tests and diagnosis:

Dental X-rays or facial X-rays to determine the extent of the infection and tissue damage.


Because trench mouth involves an overgrowth of bacteria, antibiotics are often prescribed to eradicate the bacteria and prevent infection from spreading. You may also need over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers. Getting pain under control is important so that you can eat properly and resume good dental care habits, such as brushing your teeth. Your dentist may also recommend a pain reliever that you can apply directly to your gums (topical anesthetic).

Cleaning your teeth and gums

Treatment also includes a thorough but gentle cleaning of your teeth and gums. Your dentist removes any dead gum tissue (debridement) to help reduce pain. Your mouth may be rinsed with an antiseptic solution. When your gums are less tender, you'll undergo a type of tooth cleaning called scaling and root planing. This procedure removes plaque and tartar from beneath your gumline and smooths any roughened surfaces of your teeth.

When surgery is necessary
Although your gums are likely to heal and return to their normal shape with professional cleaning and proper home care, you may need surgery to help repair them if you have extensive damage