Oral Thrush (Candidiasis) – What Is It?

Excerpt: Oral thrush (candidiasis) is a yeast infection. Candida albicans...
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What Is Oral Thrush (Candidiasis)?

Oral thrush (candidiasis) is a yeast infection. Candida albicans is the most common candida fungus that can cause thrush to appear. These fungi are located in the mucous membranes that line the mouth. Candida is commonly found in the mouths of many people. If you have a healthy immune system you can generally fight off the development of thrush. However, if you do not have a healthy immune system, the fungus can overgrow and cause thrush.

Candidiasis usually only affects people with immune systems that are not strong enough to fight it off. This can be caused by poor lifestyle choices, medications, or even genetics. Candidiasis can affect a person at any age, young or old. Thrush may not be immediately noticeable at first, and usually does not cause serious pain, but it can impact your quality of life.

One of the best ways to combat oral thrush is to get consistent dental checkups, your dentist will be able to inform you if you have it or not.

Oral Thrush – What Does It Look Like?

Candidiasis appears as white spots (lesions) that can be wiped off with a toothbrush, or tongue scraper. When the white spots are wiped off, they will leave a raw red base. These lesions can appear on your tongue, palate, or the linings of the cheeks and the back of your lips.

Symptoms Of Oral Thrush

Oral thrush can be uncomfortable to look at and can cause discomfort for the person experiencing it:
 
  • White patches (lesions) that develop on the tongue, palate, cheeks, or inner lips
  • Sore mouth, lips, cheeks, tongue, or throat
  • Redness around the lesions
  • Dry or cracked lips
  • Soreness in the mouth
  • Decreased sense of taste
  • A burning sensation on the tongue or around the lesions
  • Cottonmouth or dry mouth
  • Severe oral thrush can reduce the ability to swallow, speak, and eat
  • Poor-fitting denture

What Causes Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush can have a number of reasons, you have a good chance of preventing it with healthy lifestyle choices but sometimes it may be out of your control.

Antibiotics

Although necessary for certain situations, one potential side effect of antibiotics is oral thrush. Antibiotics are designed to kill off harmless bacteria. However, it can cause an imbalance to occur and it may cause the yeast to overgrow. When you take antibiotics, you will want to incorporate probiotic foods like yogurt in your diet to counteract this effect.

Dry Mouth

If you have a dry mouth or have poor lifestyle choices that inhibit your ability to create an adequate amount of saliva, then you may be increasing the likelihood of oral thrush appearing. Saliva is incredibly useful for a number of reasons, staying hydrated, chewing gum, and quitting smoking can all improve your ability to have a heathy amount of saliva.

HSV-1 Infection (Herpes)

HSV-1 is a highly contagious virus that can infect you and cause oral thrush. Being aware of HSV-1 is the best way not to get infected by it. 

Cancer Treatment

Unfortunately, cancer treatments can potentially cause oral thrush, this is because the treatments can greatly impact your immune system. Once the immune system is in a weakened state, your chances of getting oral thrush increase.

Steroid Use

Certain steroids can weaken the immune system, asthma inhalers for example may contain steroids, and can potentially cause your immune system to be weakened. If you do have to take steroids, discussing the side effects with your doctor can benefit you. You should follow your doctor’s orders on how to best deal with steroids and their side effects.

Uncontrolled Diabetes

If you have high levels of glucose, it can cause oral thrush to appear. People who do not actively monitor and take care of their blood sugar levels are at greater risk of oral thrush.

Weakened Immune Systems

If you have any condition that can weaken your immune system, medical or genetic, you are at a greater risk of oral thrush. If you do have a weakened immune system, you will want to discuss strategies with your doctor and/or nutritionist to help your immune system be as strong as possible.

 

Oral Thrush In Infants

Infants may be more susceptible to oral thrush due to weakened immune systems. Oral thrush is most likely to appear in infants that are 12 months old or less.
 
The infant may be more likely to develop oral thrush if they:
 
  • Have taken antibiotics due to sicknesses, such as strep throat or the flu.
  • Do not clean orthodontic appliances before use.
  • Use an inhaler for asthma.
  • Have a weaker immune system than most children, which means they get sick easier.
  • Frequently use a pacifier (babies).
  • Were born prematurely and had a low birth weight.

How Do You Treat Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush may not need any treatment, it can resolve on its own after a few days to a couple of weeks, make sure to practice great dental care this time. You can also pick up a tongue scraper, or use a toothbrush to scrape off the growth on your tongue so it does not build up too much.
 
If it lasts longer than two weeks, you should make an appointment, the dentist can treat it with:
 
  • Antifungal medication – Used to kill bacteria inside the mouth.
  • Antiseptics – Miconazole, clotrimazole, nystatin, itraconazole, and fluconazole medications are all used to potentially treat thrush.
  • Dietary supplements – Probiotics can support healthy bacteria and can help fight off thrush.
  • Throat lozenges – Used to mitigate the discomfort of thrush which can cause a sore throat.
  • Yogurt – Contains probiotics.
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