Oral thrush, or oropharyngeal candidiasis, is a fungal infection in the mouth caused by a yeast called Candida. Some amounts of Candida naturally occurs on or in places like the skin, mouth, throat, digestive tract, and vagina. However, changes or imbalances in these environments can sometimes cause Candida to multiply, resulting in infection.
In the mouth, candidiasis usually presents as white-ish, raised, patchy lesions on the tongue, inside cheeks or throat. Below, we’ll discuss the risk factors, symptoms, treatment and prevention of oral thrush.
Risk Factors of Oral Thrush
Thrush is rare among young and healthy adults. It is more commonly seen in babies (particularly babies who are less than one month old and breastfeeding), dentures-wearers, and adults with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems. There are many possible causes of oral thrush, including:
In breastfeeding mothers and their babies – by the transfer of microorganisms from baby to mother, or from mother to baby.
Pregnancy (due to hormonal changes.)
Poor oral hygiene
Wearing dentures (in particular, neglecting to clean dentures daily, or ill-fitting dentures.)
Taking antibiotic or corticosteroids
Diabetes or other immune compromising illnesses, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS
Symptoms of Oral Thrush
White, cottage cheese-like patches on the tongue, inside cheeks or back of the throat
Redness and soreness inside the mouth
Loss of taste
Unpleasant taste in the mouth
Sensitivity to spicy foods
Cottony feeling in the mouth
Cracks at the corners of the mouth
Pain while eating or swallowing
Fever, if the infection spreads beyond the esophagus
Thrush is usually not contagious, though it can sometimes spread to at risk individuals. If left untreated, oral thrush can spread to other
parts of a person’s body and cause serious health issues.
Oral thrush is usually successfully treated with a 7-14 day course of antifungal medication. Topical medications (like gels or liquids) are commonly used, though oral medications (tablets and lozenges) are also sometimes used. Your healthcare provider can recommend which medication type is best depending on the individual’s age and specific cause of thrush.
Because there are several different risk factors of oral thrush, specific prevention methods depends on the potential causes. For example:
If you take antibiotics or corticosteroids, consult your doctor. They may change your dosage, medication type, or the way it is delivered. If you take inhaled corticosteroids, rinse your mouth with plain water after using your inhaler, which will help keep your mouth’s pH balance normal while also rinsing your mouth of lingering medication.
For people who wear dentures, good oral hygiene is essential to keeping oral thrush at bay! Regular brushing and flossing removes food debris and excess microorganisms from your mouth and between your teeth, while also helping to maintain normal, healthy pH levels. Remember to:
Brush and floss every day.
Rinse your mouth with water after meals.
Visit your dentist regularly, both to maintain good oral health and to ensure well-fitting dentures.
Remove and clean your dentures thoroughly every night as instructed.
Brush your gums, tongue and cheeks using a soft-bristled toothbrush daily.
Limit the amount of sugary and yeast-containing foods you consume (such as breads, beer and wine).
Avoid smoking or other tobacco use.
For people with weakened immune systems, the number one priority is to unsure that any underlying condition you have is well controlled. And like dentures-wearers, you should also be vigilant about:
Good oral hygiene.
Visiting your dentist regularly.
Limiting the amount of consumed sugar and yeast-containing foods.
Avoiding smoking and tobacco use.