What Is Oral Thrush?
Oral thrush, also known as oropharyngeal candidiasis, oral candidiasis, or thrush, happens when a yeast infection develops inside the mouth. Oral thrush is common among infants and toddlers. It causes white or yellowish bumps to form on the tongue and inner cheeks. These bumps would usually go away with treatment.
It is possible to pass on the fungus that causes oral thrush to someone else if you kiss them. Because the fungus that causes oral thrush also causes yeast infections in other body parts, it’s possible to pass the fungus from one part of the body to another part of someone else’s body. Also, people who have oral thrush, a vaginal yeast infection, or penile yeast infection could pass the fungus to their partner through vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex.
Pregnant women who have a vaginal yeast infection could pass the fungus to their baby during delivery. Also, those who have a breast yeast infection or nipple yeast infection could pass the fungus to their baby while breastfeeding. Babies, too, can transmit oral thrush to their mothers during breastfeeding.
When C. albicans is passed from one person to another, it doesn’t always cause oral thrush or other types of yeast infection. Also, because C. albicans is common in our environment, developing a yeast infection does not mean that it was transmitted from someone else.
Oral thrush is usually mild and rarely causes severe problems. This may not be the same for people with weakened immune systems because the condition can spread to other parts of the body and cause potentially serious complications.
Symptoms of Oral Thrush
In its early stages, oral thrush may not cause any symptoms, however, as the infection worsens, some of these symptoms may develop:
- difficulty swallowing
- a bad taste in the mouth
- a loss of taste
- a cotton-like sensation in the mouth
- dry, cracked skin at the corners of the mouth
- slight bleeding if the bumps are scraped
- soreness or burning in the mouth
- white or yellow patches of bumps on the inner cheeks, tongue, tonsils, gums, or lips
In rare cases, oral thrush can affect the esophagus. The same fungus that causes oral thrush can also cause yeast infections in other parts of the body.
Common Causes of Oral Thrush
Oral thrush and other yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans (C. albicans). It’s normal for a small amount of C. albicans to live in the mouth without causing harm. When the immune system functions well, helpful bacteria in the body help keep C. albicans under control. If the immune system is compromised, or the balance of microorganisms in the body is upset, the fungus can grow excessively and cause some harm.
Diabetes, too, can cause oral thrush. People who don`t treat diabetes early are at a higher risk of a weakened immune system and particularly high blood sugar levels. This further creates favorable conditions for C. albicans to grow.
Cancer treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy can damage or kill healthy cells, thereby making one susceptible to oral thrush and other infections.
There are also conditions that weaken the immune system. Some of such are HIV and leukemia. They also increase the risk of developing oral thrush. Oral thrush is a common opportunistic infection in people with HIV.
There are also medications that can cause an overgrowth of C. albicans that causes oral thrush. Some of such medications are antibiotics that reduce the number of friendly microorganisms in the body.
How to Diagnose Oral Thrush
Doctors would usually diagnose oral thrush by examining patients` mouths for the characteristic bumps that it causes. There may be a need to take a biopsy of the affected area to confirm the diagnosis. To perform a biopsy, a healthcare practitioner will scrape off a small portion of a bump from the mouth and send the sample to a laboratory to be tested for C. albicans.
If the oral thrush is likely in the esophagus, they may use a throat swab culture or endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis. To perform a throat swab culture, a healthcare practitioner could use a cotton swab to take a tissue sample from the back of the patient`s throat, then send the sample to a laboratory for testing.
To perform endoscopy, the doctor will use a thin tube with a light and camera attached to it. They will then insert it into the mouth and the esophagus for some examination. They may also remove a sample of tissue for analysis.
How to Treat Oral Thrush
Doctors usually prescribe some of these medications to treat oral thrush:
- itraconazole (Sporanox)
- amphotericin B (AmBisome, Fungizone)
- clotrimazole (Mycelex Troche)
- fluconazole (Diflucan)
- nystatin (Nystop, Nyata)
Once treatment begins, oral thrush usually goes away within a couple of weeks, however, it can reoccur in some cases. Adults who have recurring cases of oral thrush with no known cause will need to speak with their healthcare provider, who will evaluate them for underlying medical conditions that might be causing the reoccurrence.
Home Remedies for Oral Thrush
There are a couple of home remedies and lifestyle changes that treat oral thrush or stop it from reoccurring. Practicing these in addition to a treatment option would speed up healing.
- Use a soft toothbrush to avoid scraping the bumps caused by thrush.
- Replace your toothbrush after treating oral thrush.
- Clean your dentures properly if you wear them to lower your risk of reinfection.
- Don`t use mouthwashes or mouth sprays without a doctor`s prescription.
You may also rinse your mouth with any of these to relieve the symptoms of oral thrush and speed up healing:
- a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar
- a solution of water and baking soda
- a mixture of water and lemon juice
Oral Hygiene Facts
- Tooth decay could be caused by acid-producing bacteria.
- Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases that people deal with.
- Babies are not born with decay-causing bacteria in their mouths; they get infected through saliva from caregivers.
- 70% of Americans have had at least 1 cavity by age 18.
- Over 300 types of bacteria make up dental plaque.
- Children in North America spend about half a million dollars on chewing gum each year.
- The average person only brushes for about 70 seconds, however, the recommended duration is 2-3 minutes.
- Tooth decay can cause death if the infection in the upper back tooth spreads to the sinus behind the eye, from which it can get to the brain.
- Tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children of ages two to five, and half of the children who are twelve to fifteen.
- Tooth decay affects over 90 percent of U.S. adults who are over 40 years old.
- Reducing sugar intake can help prevent tooth decay.
- Sugar intake should not exceed 50 grams a day (about ten teaspoons). This includes sugars foods.
- A can of soda contains at least six teaspoons of sugar.
- People who drink 3 or more glasses of soda each day have 60% more possibility of having tooth decay, fillings, and tooth loss than others.
- People who don’t floss miss cleaning 40% of their tooth surfaces. Dentists advised that people floss and brush their teeth daily.