What causes trench mouth?

Todd A. Welch, DMD
Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG), more commonly known as “trench mouth” for its common occurrence among soldiers in the trenches during World War I, is a painful gum disease caused by the gram negative bacteria known as spirochetes.

Trench mouth is commonly associated with stress and acute anxiety, which, for teens, can take place around exam times, but it can occur in anyone going through an acute period of stress -- if the underlying conditions are right.

It is often associated with an underlying or pre-existing minor gingivitis in individuals who may have not been taking good care of their oral health, brushing, flossing and getting regular dental checkups and cleanings. ANUG is also commonly associated with smoking, which seems to dry the mouth and change the bacterial flora -- the normal bacteria that reside in the mouth, and is even necessary for health.

Trench Mouth Symptoms:
  • Severe gum pain
  • Gum recession
  • Bleeding from gums when they're 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 mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes around your head, neck or jaw

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.