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Oral Thrush: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention

Updated: Sep 3, 2023


oral thrush

Oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the mouth. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention of oral thrush:


What Causes Oral Thrush?

  1. Candida overgrowth: The primary cause of oral thrush is an overgrowth of the Candida fungus, specifically Candida albicans, which is naturally present in the mouth but can multiply under certain conditions.

  2. Another common cause is failing to gargle mouth after using a steroid inhaler.

  3. Weakened immune system: A weakened immune system due to factors like illnesses (such as HIV/AIDS), medications (such as corticosteroids or antibiotics), or medical treatments (such as chemotherapy) can increase the risk of oral thrush.

  4. Poor oral hygiene: Inadequate oral hygiene practices can create an environment that promotes the growth of Candida in the mouth.

  5. Other factors: Infants, elderly individuals, individuals with dry mouth (xerostomia), and those who wear dentures are more susceptible to developing oral thrush.

Symptoms

  1. White patches: Creamy white or yellowish patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, gums, or throat. These patches may resemble cottage cheese and can be easily wiped off, leaving behind red, inflamed areas.

  2. Soreness and discomfort: The affected areas may be sensitive, sore, and bleed slightly when scraped or brushed.

  3. Loss of taste: Some individuals with oral thrush may experience a diminished sense of taste or a cottony feeling in the mouth.

  4. Difficulty swallowing: In severe cases, oral thrush can cause difficulty or discomfort.

Keep in mind that if oral thrush occurs in a healthy young person, there is a need to screen for HIV.


Treatments

  1. Treatment is typically oral nystatin (a gargle) or oral fluconazole (tablet).

  2. Antifungal medications: The primary treatment for oral thrush is antifungal medications prescribed by a healthcare professional. These can be in the form of oral rinses, lozenges, or antifungal gels. Follow the prescribed treatment regimen and complete the full course of medication.

  3. Proper oral hygiene: Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice daily with a soft toothbrush and using an antifungal mouthwash as prescribed.

  4. Denture care: If you wear dentures, clean them regularly and remove them at night to reduce the risk of oral thrush.

  5. Treating underlying conditions: If oral thrush results from an underlying medical condition or medication, addressing and managing that condition may help prevent recurrent episodes of thrush.

How To Prevent Oral Thrush

  1. Practice good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and gently clean your tongue with a scraper or toothbrush.

  2. Limit sugar intake: Candida fungus thrives on sugar, so reducing the consumption of sugary foods and drinks can help prevent oral thrush.

  3. Maintain a healthy immune system: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and manage stress to support a strong immune system.

  4. Regular dental check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. They can identify and address any oral health issues, including early signs of thrush.

If you suspect you or your child has oral thrush, it's important to consult a healthcare professional or dentist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. They will be able to provide expert advice based on your specific situation.



References

Taylor, M. and Raja, A. (2020). Oral Candidiasis (Thrush). [online] PubMed. Available at: NCBI - WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic.

Information, N.C. for B., Pike, U.S.N.L. of M. 8600 R., MD, B. and Usa, 20894 (2019). How can you prevent oral thrush? [online] NCBI - WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic . Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Available at: NCBI - WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic.

Talapko, J., Juzbašić, M., Matijević, T., Pustijanac, E., Bekić, S., Kotris, I. and Škrlec, I. (2021). Candida albicans—The Virulence Factors and Clinical Manifestations of Infection. Journal of Fungi, 7(2), p.79. Available at: NCBI - WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic.

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