Symptoms of Trench Mouth
The primary symptoms of necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (trench mouth) are a foul taste and odor in the mouth, accompanied by swollen painful gums. A visible sore may show on inspection and pus may appear.
Other signs that may progress into the disease:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that are loose instead of tight to the teeth
- Halitosis that returns quickly or doesn’t go away
- Loose teeth or pus from between teeth
- Pain when eating or swallowing
- A discoloration of the gums – especially grey or black in certain areas
- Severe infections may be accompanied by a fever or swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Other symptoms of trench mouth have more to do with the causes than with the experience. For instance, poor nutrition and stress are associated with the disease. In fact, anything that suppresses the immune system will contribute, and frequent infections, including gingival infections, might be the result.
Are symptoms serious enough to need a dentist?
In most cases, asking the question provides the answer – yes. Trench mouth is a serious and progressive disease. Without proper treatment, the infection can move deeper into underlying tissues, including bone and the cheeks or lips.
Trench mouth is different than a cavity in a tooth. Tooth decay is a slow process in comparison. Trench mouth is an acute problem and requires professional treatment. On the plus side though, almost always, the disease can be stopped and the mouth returned to a normal, healthy state.
A dentist is required, not just because they can prescribe the proper medications, but because they can evaluate your symptoms by inspecting your mouth, taking x-rays to see the extent of the infection and perform surgery if needed to drain pus and dead tissue.
Medications prescribed range from antibiotics, specialty rinses and pain medications.
Seeing a dentist as soon as possible is important. Symptoms of trench mouth can develop suddenly and some patients will mistakenly wait “to see how it goes.” This is a problem because without treatment, the damage can be much worse than it has to be.
Disguising symptoms of trench mouth with frequent mouthwash use or flavored gums will only mask the problem for a short while. Notably, patients will wake up with a foul taste and odor in their mouths, or even pus. Sometimes, you can see a depression or ulceration develop, especially between teeth, although ulcers are not always visible.
Distinguishing Other Diseases
A canker sore is a (usually single) small pit in the lining of the mouth. Although this can appear on the gums, it is more likely to be on the inside of the cheek or lip. These will be painful, but are not prone to bleeding, nor do they generate foul tastes or smells. If you have any doubt, your dentist will be able to differentiate between a canker sore and gum disease, including trench mouth. Herpes lesions can also appear in the mouth as painful ulcerations. They are similar in appearance to a canker sore, although usually smaller.
Thrush is a fungal infection of mucous membranes caused by Candida albicans and related organisms. These are usually localized and more commonly appear as a white or off-white coating on the tongue. Again, your dentist can diagnose and treat this type of infection. Without swollen, bleeding gums, it is unlikely to be mistaken for trench mouth. The odor of the breath may be similar to baking bread with some types of candidiasis, especially in infants.
Xerostomia, or chronic dry mouth, can cause soreness and bad breath. It is distinguished from trench mouth by examining the gums to look for redness, swelling and signs of infection. Xerostomia itself is something to see a dentist about, both to look for causes and for direct treatment. Since saliva partially protects our gums from infection, dry mouth is a risk factor for developing trench mouth.