Oral thrush is a common fungal infection that affects the mouth, and can typically be identified by trademark white patches that are often accompanied by inflammation, irritation and soreness. In the following article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at oral thrush, including its symptoms, treatment options, and some frequently asked questions about the condition. By the end of this read, you will have a better understanding of oral thrush, how it’s treated, and how to manage it and prevent it effectively. Let’s get started!
What is oral thrush?
Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by the Candida species of yeast. Candida is a normal organism found in the mouth, but under certain circumstances, it can overgrow and cause infection. Oral thrush is most common in infants, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems; however, it can also affect healthy individuals, especially those who wear dentures or use inhaled corticosteroids for asthma.
What are the symptoms of oral thrush?
Oral thrush presents various symptoms that can help you identify the infection. Some of the most common symptoms include:
White or yellow patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or roof of the mouth
Soreness or burning sensation in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Cracking at the corners of the mouth
- Loss of taste or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Redness and inflammation under the white patches
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to note that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have oral thrush; white patches can also indicate other conditions, such as leukoplakia or, in more serious cases, mouth cancer. For an official diagnosis and the appropriate course of treatment, it’s a good idea to consult your GP when symptoms first appear.
How is oral thrush treated?
In general, the treatment of oral thrush will depend on the severity of the infection, as well as your overall health. One of the most common treatment options is antifungal medications, usually in the form of lozenges, tablets, or liquid solutions. The duration of treatment depends on the severity of the infection, but a course of treatment will typically last around 7-14 days.
What causes oral thrush?
Several factors can contribute to the development of oral thrush, but some of the most common causes include the following:
High blood sugar levels can promote Candida growth, making individuals with diabetes more prone to oral thrush.
Weakened immune system
Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to oral thrush.
Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the mouth, creating an environment conducive to Candida overgrowth.
Saliva helps control Candida growth, so people with dry mouth conditions or those taking medications that cause dry mouth are at a higher risk for developing oral thrush.
Poorly fitting dentures or not cleaning them properly can create an environment for Candida to grow.
Long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids for asthma or other respiratory conditions may increase the risk of oral thrush.
Is oral thrush serious?
In most cases, oral thrush is a mild infection that can be easily treated with a simple course of antifungal medication. However, if left untreated, thrush can spread to other parts of the body and cause more severe infections. It’s also important to note that for individuals with weakened immune systems, oral thrush can lead to more serious health complications. To avoid any complications and clear up any discomfort as soon as possible, we’d recommend consulting with a dentist or GP when symptoms first appear.
How to prevent oral thrush
While you can’t always completely avoid thrush (just like you can’t completely avoid common colds), there are some things you can do to minimise your chances of developing it. Here’s what we recommend:
Practise good oral hygiene
Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Don’t forget to floss daily and clean your tongue to remove bacteria and debris too.
Regular dental checkups
For optimal oral health, visit your dentist London regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams – ideally once every six months. Your dentist will be able to help identify and address any oral health issues before they develop into more serious problems, and will also keep your teeth healthy and plaque-fre with regular polishing and cleaning.
Limit sugar and yeast-containing foods
Consuming a diet high in sugar and yeast can contribute to Candida overgrowth. If you’re dealing with recurrent oral thrush, try to limit your intake of sugary foods and beverages, and avoid excessive consumption of bread, beer, and other yeast-containing products.
Manage dry mouth
If you have dry mouth, talk to your healthcare professional about potential treatments or modifications to your medications. You can also try sugar-free chewing gum or lozenges that can help to stimulate saliva production.
Proper denture care
If you wear dentures, make sure to clean them daily using a denture cleaner, and remove them at night to give your mouth a chance to recover. You’ll also want to ensure that your dentures fit properly; visit your dentist for adjustments if needed.
Smoking can increase your risk of oral thrush and other oral health problems, which is why we’d always encourage our dental patients to quit smoking where possible. If you’re a long-term smoker, consider quitting or reducing your tobacco use to improve your oral health – you can find anti-smoking resources over on the NHS website if you need extra support.
Maintain a healthy immune system
Finally, a strong immune system is your best defence against Candida overgrowth, and therefore the greatest weapon against recurring thrush infections. Promote your immune system by getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly where possible, and managing stress.