What is Oral Thrush?
Oral thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by an excess of yeast, or “Candida albicans,” a natural fungus in the body. It short, oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth.
You may be asking yourself, “Aren’t women the only ones who get yeast infections?” While vaginal yeast infections are perhaps the most common condition associated with an overgrowth of Candida, a yeast infection can occur anywhere in the body, but they happen most often in moist areas. Even diaper rash is a type of yeast infection caused by excess Candida in a baby’s fecal matter.
Also called oral candidiasis or oropharyngeal candidiasis, thrush is most commonly found in young infants and toddlers, but adults with certain medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) are vulnerable as well.
Causes of Oral Thrush
Oral thrush occurs when “good” bacteria (e.g. lactobacilli) and the immune system are unable to control the amount of yeast in the mouth. This can happen for several reasons. For example, infants are prone to get oral thrush from an underdeveloped immune system because their bodies cannot adequately control the growth of Candida. Similarly, a child may get oral thrush as a result of a weak immune system brought on by an illness.
Additionally, dirty formula bottles and pacifiers can also cause oral thrush if they become contaminated with Candida. Because the skin often contains yeast, mothers can pass on excess Candida to their baby when giving birth, a problem that can lead to oral thrush within days after delivery.
Children are not the only ones at risk for developing oral thrush. Adults with a bacterial infection can get thrush after taking certain antibiotics that kill some of the “good” bacteria responsible for controlling the growth of Candida. Improper use of inhalers for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can also cause oral thrush in adults.
Symptoms of Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is often characterized by red or white patches of the lips, tongue, and inside cheeks. Often described as a semblance of cottage cheese, these white patches are uncomfortable and they usually cause mouth soreness. Although the pain is usually not severe, most babies have a difficult time feeding because of this soreness. Another symptom of oral thrush is angular cheilitis. This occurs when the skin at the corner of the mouth begins to crack and or bleed.
Some people are aware of the excess yeast and may experience a burning or itching sensation if they have oral thrush. Other times a patient is completely unaware of this infection. If you notice white patches and you feel soreness in your mouth, make sure you seek medical attention from a doctor or dentist right away.
Oral Candidiasis: Treatment & Prevention
The quickest and most effective way to treat oral thrush is with antifungal drugs. These can be administered orally by taking a pill or by using a special mouth rinse that kills the infection. Acidophilus capsules or liquid can also be used to treat an infection caused by oral thrush. For a natural remedy, some dentists recommend eating unsweetened yogurt to replace the germs that control the amount of Candida in your mouth.
If you wear dentures, orthodontic retainers, or mouth guards, make sure you disinfect these before you place them in your mouth. Also, make sure you disinfect pacifiers and bottle nipples so you don’t pass an excess of yeast to your baby. It’s also a good idea to change diapers frequently to prevent diaper rash.