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Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis is a condition in which the fungus Candida albicans collects in the mouth’s lining. It’s most common in toddlers and children, but it can occur in anybody. It causes creamy white sores on the tongue or inside cheeks. Certain drugs, as well as certain health conditions, such as diabetes or dry mouth, might cause this. Antifungal medicines are commonly used as treatment.

What is thrush?

Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a common fungal infection of the mouth and throat. It is caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus, which is normally present in small amounts in the mouth.

Symptoms of Oral Thrush

Symptoms may not appear in the early stages. However, if the infection worsens, one or more of the following symptoms may appear:

  • White or yellow spots on the tongue, inner cheeks, tonsils, lips, and gums.
  • Pain or burning in your mouth
  • Scraping the areas may cause mild bleeding
  • A cotton-like feeling in your mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Dry, cracked skin around the corners of your mouth
  • A lack of taste
  • A nasty taste in your mouth
  • Inflammation, redness, and pain behind dentures 

Oral thrush can occasionally infect the esophagus, but this is uncommon. The fungus responsible for oral thrush can also cause yeast infections in other parts of the body.

Causes of Oral Thrush

Your immune system typically defends against harmful organisms like viruses, bacteria, and fungi while maintaining a balance of beneficial microbes. However, when these defenses weaken, Candida fungus can proliferate. Thus, leading to oral thrush infections. Candida albicans is the most prevalent fungus responsible for such infections. 

Several factors can increase your risk of oral thrush, including:

  • Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes, are more prone to oral thrush.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics can kill the “good” bacteria in the mouth, allowing the Candida fungus to overgrow.
  • Corticosteroids: Long-term use of corticosteroids can weaken the immune system. Thus, increasing the risk of oral thrush.
  • Dentures: Poorly fitting dentures can cause tiny cuts in the mouth. This allows the fungus to enter and cause an infection.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps keep the mouth clean. It also prevents the overgrowth of Candida. Dry mouth due to aging, medications, or medical conditions can increase the risk of oral thrush.

Who Does It Affect?

Oral thrush can affect anyone. However, it is more common in infants, young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. 

Infants and young children may develop oral thrush when they put toys or pacifiers that have been in their mouths into their mouths. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more prone to oral thrush due to their weakened immune systems.

Is It Contagious?

Oral thrush is not considered highly contagious. However, it can spread through saliva, so it is essential to avoid sharing utensils, cups, or kissing when you have oral thrush. 

People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or cancer, are more prone to contracting oral thrush from someone who has it.

Oral Thrush Prevention

To prevent oral thrush, it is essential to maintain good oral hygiene. This includes:

  • brushing your teeth twice a day
  • flossing daily
  • using an antiseptic mouthwash

If you wear dentures, remove them before sleeping and clean them thoroughly. If you have a dry mouth, try to drink plenty of fluids and use saliva substitutes. It is also essential to avoid smoking and limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods, which can promote the growth of Candida.

Oral Thrush Treatment

Thrush is typically treated with antifungal medicines. These medications come in tablets, lozenges, or liquids that are “swished” around in your mouth before ingesting. Usually, you must take these pills for 10 to 14 days. 

It is essential to follow the instructions carefully and complete the full course of treatment, even if the symptoms disappear before the treatment is over. For severe cases or cases that do not respond to treatment, antifungal medications may be prescribed.

Children and adults with healthy immune systems usually respond well to antifungal medication. However, thrush symptoms may be more severe and difficult to treat in those who have weaker immune systems.