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Trench Mouth

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is trench mouth?

Trench mouth is a severe infection of the gums caused by bacteria.

What increases my risk for trench mouth?

The following may put you at risk for trench mouth:

  • Stress
  • Poor hygiene of the teeth and gums
  • Smoking, chewing tobacco, or drinking alcohol
  • Poor nutrition
  • Weak immune system

What are the signs and symptoms of trench mouth?

  • Painful sores between the teeth, often with a gray film over the sores
  • Red, swollen, bleeding gums
  • Fever and tiredness
  • Bad breath
  • A metal taste in your mouth
  • Swollen glands in your neck

How is trench mouth diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look at your gums and ask about your symptoms. You may also need the following:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests may show what bacteria is causing your trench mouth.
  • X-ray: You may need an x-ray of your mouth or face to see if the infection has spread.

How is trench mouth treated?

Treatment may relieve your symptoms within 24 hours.

  • Brush and floss your teeth, and rinse your mouth: Brush and floss your teeth 2 times each day. Use an electric toothbrush if you can. Rinse your mouth 2 times each day. Rinse with warm salt water (½ teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water) or other mouth rinse as directed.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine will help fight an infection. Take your antibiotics until they are gone, even if you feel better sooner.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. This medicine may be given as a pill or as a mouth rinse.

When should I follow up with my dentist?

Dental cleaning will help relieve your symptoms. You may need to see a dentist more than once. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

What are the risks of trench mouth?

The pain can make it hard for you to eat or drink. This can lead to dehydration or malnutrition. Without treatment, the infection can spread deeper into your gums. Your cheeks and throat may become hot, swollen, and red. You can lose teeth if these infections are not treated. The tissue inside your throat, cheeks, and lips can also get infected. These infections can be life-threatening.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your fever comes back, even with treatment.
  • You have pus draining from your gums.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel a loose tooth.
  • The tissue inside your cheek or throat is swollen and red.
  • You urinate less than usual. You may feel confused or lightheaded.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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