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Oral thrush (oral candidiasis) is a yeast infection. The most common type of Candida fungus that causes thrush is Candida albicans. These fungi live in the mucous membranes lining the mouth.
Most people have small traces of Candida in their mouths. In some cases, the fungi can overgrow and cause thrush. However, if you have a strong immune system, the fungus does not overgrow, and you will not develop thrush.
Candidiasis most commonly affects people with weakened immune systems, such as infants or adults taking certain medications. However, the condition can affect people of all ages.
Thrush is difficult to notice, at least at first, and does not cause severe pain. By itself, thrush does not indicate a serious medical problem, though it can affect quality of life.
Candidiasis creates white spots (lesions) that wipe off but leave a red, raw base. The lesions can either develop on the tongue, palate, or buccal mucosa (lining of the cheeks and back of the lips). The condition may also cause mild burning.
Thrush can cause some, or all, of the following symptoms:
Thrush can be triggered by a variety of factors, including existing medical conditions and poor oral health:
Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to sick patients to fight off harmful bacteria. Anyone taking antibiotics may develop thrush symptoms because the medications also temporarily kill harmless bacteria. This can alter the balance of good and bad microorganisms in the mouth, causing thrush.
According to Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth's in-house dentists, "antibiotics, although necessary, can upset the delicate balance of the microorganisms in your body. Make sure to take antibiotics with a probiotic such as yogurt."
Dry mouth is an oral condition that occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. Inadequate saliva production increases the risk of oral thrush.
Using an old toothbrush with harbored fungus can also cause thrush. It is recommended to switch toothbrushes or toothbrush tips at least every three months to prevent the spread of bacteria and fungus.
"A good rule of thumb is to switch out your toothbrush once the bristles start to splay or after you have gotten over a sickness like the common cold," says Dr. Aggarwal.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a highly contagious infection that causes cold sores and may also cause mild candidiasis. HSV-1 is a lifelong disease that spreads through close personal contact, such as kissing and sharing utensils.
Oral thrush is the most common fungal infection cancer patients get while receiving treatment. Cancer treatments weaken the immune system, which can trigger the overgrowth of Candida fungus.
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing oral candidiasis. This is due to extreme changes in vaginal hormones. If a woman has a yeast infection while giving birth, the infection can also be transferred to the baby during labor.
Using steroid medications long-term can cause this condition. If you frequently use an asthma inhaler that contains steroids, you have an increased risk of developing oral candidiasis. This is because steroids compromise the immune system, says Dr. Aggarwal.
Pacifiers and baby bottles can make a baby’s mouth too moist, creating the ideal environment for yeast to grow in. So, to help prevent oral candidiasis, babies should not go to sleep with a bottle in their mouths, and pacifier use should be limited throughout the day.
Thoroughly clean pacifiers and bottle nipples in the dishwasher or soak them in hot water after each use to remove bacteria and fungus.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends stopping pacifier use altogether after a baby turns 6 months old. This helps prevent thrush and other oral conditions such as bite changes.
High levels of glucose make it easier for Candida fungus to grow. More specifically, people with diabetes who do not monitor their blood sugar accurately have a higher risk of developing yeast infections.
People who have diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or take steroid medications are also at risk of developing thrush. In these cases, thrush can be life-threatening since the body is not strong enough to fight it off.
Babies and children are susceptible to developing candidiasis because they have decreased immunity. Infants are most susceptible to developing thrush in their first year of life.
Young children are more likely to develop the condition if they:
Thrush is a non-life-threatening infection that typically goes away within a few days to two weeks with proper treatment. If it doesn't resolve within this timeframe, contact your general dentist as soon as possible.
The first line of treatment for oral thrush is topical medications. However, if these are not effective, then a systemic medication may be needed.
Treatments may include:
Eating unsweetened yogurt can also reduce the symptoms and discomfort of candida infections.
The best way to prevent thrush is to practice good oral hygiene.
Children and adults should:
Every six months, you should also visit a dentist for teeth cleanings.
Oral thrush is a non-contagious fungal infection of the mouth.
Oral thrush can be mild and go away on its own within a few days. However, more severe cases may require anti-fungal medications and home remedies.
For most people, oral thrush does not cause any serious symptoms. If you have severe symptoms, it could be something else, like trench mouth.
Thrush is a non-life-threatening infection that typically goes away within a few days to two weeks (severe cases) with proper treatment. If it doesn't resolve within this timeframe, contact your dentist as soon as possible.
Common medications used to treat thrush include miconazole, clotrimazole, nystatin, itraconazole, and fluconazole. They may come in the form of a tablet, a mouth rinse, or a lozenge.