What is Trench Mouth?
Is Trench Mouth Contagious?
Trench mouth is also known as Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, or simply A-NUG. Acute usually means painful and sudden onset. Necrotizing means necrotic or dying tissue. Ulcerative means painful ulcers. Gingivitis means inflamed or infected gums. It is usually accompanied by halitosis or bad breath, a foul taste and profuse bleeding of the gums, along with a grayish film on top of those gums. Often there is lymph node enlargement and tenderness in the nodes of the neck. Trench mouth is sometimes called Vincent’s Infection and bleeding gums are associated with this condition. It has a very rapid onset and is debilitating, but if properly managed, it usually resolves rather quickly with no seriously harmful effects.
We do not see Trench Mouth too often today. Nonetheless, it is sometimes seen on college campuses during exam time when the students are not getting enough rest, not eating properly, under the excess stress of the examinations, and lower their oral hygiene.
It got the name Trench Mouth during World War I when the soldiers were in the trenches, under heavy stress (very significant) and with poor oral hygiene. It is important to note that the disease was prevalent in WWII to those who were under the stress of bombing, but not in the trenches. So it reveals that high stress is a very important component factor. The condition is not contagious and is not transferred from one person to the other. The men in the trenches were under very similar circumstances, such has severe stress and poor oral hygiene. Because many of the men in the trenches contacted this problem, it was thought incorrectly to be contagious.
Trench Mouth Treatment
Treatment involves debridement of the area (removal of the necrotic tissue), antibiotics, hydrogen peroxide and warm saline rinses. Greatly improved oral hygiene, improved diet, and lessening of stress also helps. Topical anesthetic rinses may make the condition more comfortable and you should avoid spicy foods. A highly nutritional diet is always advisable. As mentioned above, trench mouth is not contagious. Trench mouth usually occurs in teen age patients and to those patients up to their mid 30’s in age. Diabetes can also be one of the factors.
Once the condition of trench mouth has been eliminated, the patient is strongly advised to brush properly at least twice daily and to floss at least once daily. Your dentist may require corrective periodontal surgery to repair damage to the gums caused by the bacterial infection.
A person who has a weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS), more throat infections than normal, or who has poor nutrition and poor oral hygiene, elevates their chance on contracting trench mouth. Oral tobacco products and/or smoking can lessen the overall health of the gum tissue, throwing the normal bacterial flora out of balance. This could cause excessive harmful bacterial growth which may lead to the debilitating condition.
Although nowadays trench mouth is a rare finding, it does in fact occur in developed nations. To prevent this disease, one should:
- visit the dentist twice yearly
- maintain meticulous oral hygiene habits on a daily basis
- maintain a good diet, lower their stress
- limit or stop completely any smoking or the use of tobacco products
- maintain their diabetes if necessary.
Then you will never have to worry about this dreaded condition.
Life Member American Dental Association, Emeritus Fellow of Academy of General Dentistry, American Association of Implant Dentistry.