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Trench-mouth: not a relic of World War I.

Trench-Mouth: Not a Relic of World War I

Gingivitis, a disease which destroys human gum tissue, was named "trench mouth" during World War I. It was common among the soldiers who were confirmed to trenches for long periods of time. Such movies as All Quiet on the Western Front, Gallipoli, and The Great War, showed the devastating effects of gingivitis on those soldiers who spent so much time in the trenches.

Health was ignored for military personnel in World War I. Emotional stress, poor oral hygiene, deficient diets, and use of tobacco conspired to cause two particular microorganisms to live symbiotically and together invade susceptible tissues in the mouth. Trench mouth flourished.

Although sophisticated weapons rendered trenches obsolete in World War II, trench mouth was still frequently reported among soldiers, and continues to be a problem today. Weariness is usually the first sign of trench mouth, although there is normally no apparent infection or increase in body temperature. Other symptoms are bleeding gums, increased salivary flow, and foul breath. Ulcerations are limited to marginal gums and tissues between the teeth. A grey membrane covers the gums, which bleed from the pressure of the slightest touch. Swallowing and talking may be painful. The lymph glands in the neck are often tender and swollen. Lesions on the checks, tonsils, throat, bronchi, rectum, or vagina may appear.

Treatment consists of gentle removal of the dead tissue. Mouthwash is recommended, as is a warm salt solution or a 3% peroxide solution. A very mild solution of either chromic acid or gentian violet can be applied to the infected areas. Smoking, spicy foods, and alcohol must be avoided. When the disease has subsided, deteriorating tissue of the gums may be surgically restored.

While poor hygiene is the major cause of gingivitis, overbite, faulty dental restorations, and tartar can also play important secondary roles. Gingivitis, commonly discovered at puberty and during pregnancy, is increasingly a problem among the "yuppie" population. Poor diet, deficient in vitamins and minerals, has been implicated.
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Title Annotation:gingivitis
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1989
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