Thrush Infection Oral

Oral thrush is the most common variety of candidiasis, or yeast infection. This mouth infection is caused by Candida albicans, the same microorganism that causes vaginal yeast infections in women.

White patches or plaques that appear on the insides of the cheeks and the tongue are the typical symptoms of oral thrush. Often, people with oral thrush feel they have an obstruction that causes heaviness in the throat area. On the other hand, oral candidiasis may go undetected and have no symptoms or signs at all.

Diagnosing Oral Thrush

Candida can proliferate in your mouth for a number of reasons, including a compromised immune system or as a result of taking antibiotics. If oral thrush is a suspected culprit, your physician will follow procedures specific to the diagnosis of mouth infections.

To diagnose candidiasis, a doctor simply takes a skin scraping to be viewed under a microscope. Candida albicans is easy to identify, particularly if the sample is used to grow a culture. This latter procedure confirms a diagnosis of oral thrush.

Who Gets Oral Thrush?

Prolonged illness and stress are factors that appear to reduce resistance to disease. Conditions and medications that reduce the effectiveness of the immune system tend to allow the proliferation of fungi that cause oral thrush.

People who take corticosteroids, people with HIV or AIDS and elderly people commonly get oral thrush. Also, patients whose diabetes is not under control and pregnant women may be at increased risk for oral thrush.

In denture wearers the area under the plates is a great environment for Candida albicans. Oral candidiasis is common in elderly people, especially those wearing dentures.

Babies, including newborns, and toddlers also get oral thrush. However, oral thrush in young children is not usually a sign of any other disease or condition.

Oral thrush in normally healthy adolescents and adults, though, may be a sign of an undiagnosed disease, such as HIV or diabetes. See your doctor if family members of any age have oral thrush that does not appear to respond to treatment.

Preventing Oral Thrush

You can prevent oral thrush with good oral hygiene that includes mouthwash and regular tooth brushing. If you wear dentures, clean them daily, rinse them after meals and use a soft brush to clean your remaining teeth and gums.

Avoid taking antibiotics without a doctor’s supervision and follow instructions carefully when you do. Excessive use of antibacterial lozenges may cause oral thrush.

Complications of Oral Thrush

Because mouth infections with thrush can be painful and can make eating difficult, infections that go untreated or unnoticed in babies and newborns can result in inadequate nutritional intake. Untreated candidiasis can also spread to the esophagus, making swallowing even more difficult. Candida may also spread to the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and skin.

Angular chelitis is another complication of oral thrush. People with deep wrinkles in the corners of their mouths or people with poorly fitting dentures may have excess saliva build up in the corners of their mouths. Oral thrush thrives in these moist folds, causing cracking and pain, particularly when smiling, eating or talking.

Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff (2005). Oral thrush. Retrieved June 25, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/oral-thrush/DS00408.