Trench mouth is a painful form of gum swelling (gingivitis). The term "trench mouth" comes from World War I, when the disorder was common among soldiers.
The mouth normally contains a balance of different bacteria. Trench mouth occurs when there is an overgrowth of normal mouth bacteria. The gums become infected and develop painful ulcers. Viruses may be involved in allowing the bacteria to grow too much.
The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and relieve symptoms. Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if you have a fever.
Good oral hygiene is vital to the treatment of trench mouth. Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly, at least twice a day, and preferably after each meal and at bedtime.
Salt water rinses (1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water) may soothe sore gums. Hydrogen peroxide, used to rinse the gums, is often recommended to remove dead or dying gum tissue. Chlorhexidine rinse will help with gum inflammation.
Over-the-counter pain relievers (analgesics) may reduce your discomfort. Soothing rinses or coating agents may reduce pain, especially before eating. You may apply lidocaine to the gums for severe pain.
You may be asked to visit a dentist or dental hygienist to have your teeth professionally cleaned and to have the plaque removed, once your gums feel less tender. You may need frequent dental cleaning and examinations until the disorder is cleared.
To prevent the condition from coming back, your health care provider may give you instructions on how to:
Maintain good general health, including proper nutrition and exercise
Maintain good oral hygiene
Avoid irritants such as smoking and hot or spicy foods.
The infection usually responds to treatment. The disorder can be quite painful until it is treated. If trench mouth is not treated promptly, the infection can spread to the cheeks, lips, or jawbone and destroy these tissues.
Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Palm Beach Prosthodontics Dental Associates, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.