Oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, is an infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans. It is also referred to as a yeast infection and is caused by the same fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections. Candida albicans is a fungus that may normally exist in the mouth and other parts of the body; it is usually kept in check from overgrowth by a healthy immune system and good bacteria in the body. However, in certain situations when the immune system is weakened or good bacteria is not present, the fungus can multiply and lead to issues.
Causes of Oral Thrush
The most common populations affected are infants, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed. While oral thrush is common in infants and typically resolves within a couple weeks, in children and adults it can indicate an underlying condition or a weakened immune system.
The following can be risk factors for oral thrush:
- Cancer or chemotherapy treatments
- Medications such as steroids, antibiotics, and birth control pills
- Dentures, particularly ones that don’t fit well
- Dry mouth
- Pregnancy and associated hormonal changes
Symptoms of Oral Thrush
Signs of oral thrush typically include white lesions and sores in the mouth, as well as a white coating on the tongue and pain. The sores can affect not only the mouth but the surrounding areas. In more severe or advanced cases, the infection can spread to the esophagus and other systems of the body.
If babies have oral thrush and are breastfeeding, they can spread the infection to the mother’s breasts, which causes skin irritation and sensitivity.
Treatment for Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is typically a short-term condition but for people with weakened immune systems, thrush can spread to other systems of the body and cause serious illness. It’s important to see your doctor to determine the cause and proper treatment of oral thrush.
Although oral thrush in babies is common, if your infant exhibits mild signs of oral thrush that do not resolve within 1-2 weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. For children and adults, make an appointment as soon as possible to rule out potential underlying conditions. You may be prescribed anti-fungal medications to treat the infection.
Oral Thrush Prevention
Oral thrush is usually not contagious, except in the case of infants transmitting to their mother’s breasts. The best way to prevent oral thrush is to stay as healthy as you can: stop smoking, monitor your diet, manage your stress level, and try to keep your immune system working as well as possible. If you have a condition like diabetes, take any prescribed medications and follow your doctor’s instructions to manage your health.
As always, don’t forget to practice proper dental hygiene: brush twice a day, floss once a day, and if you have dentures, clean them properly and don’t sleep in them. See us at Chauvin Dental every six months for your regular checkups and let us know if you’ve got any concerns about oral thrush or any other oral conditions.