A noncontagious infection of the gums and throat caused by either of two types of bacteria or a combination of both: a fusiform bacillus and a spirochete. Also known by its World War I nickname of trench mouth. Symptoms include painful bleeding gums, excessive production of saliva, and foul-smelling breath. In the untreated disease, ulcers form on the gums and sometimes on the palate and throat, and the affected tissues may be covered with a gray membrane. The irritation or removal of this membrane typically causes bleeding.
Both types of bacteria are found in healthy mouths, but are normally dormant. In cases of poor oral hygiene, poor general health, prolonged exhaustion, or nutritional deficiencies the infection suddenly may establish itself. Treatment consists of cleansing the mouth and throat with appropriate antiseptic lotions, rest, and attention to the reestablishment of adequate nutrition and good general health. Antibiotics usually are not required.