If you notice a white coating inside your mouth, you may have oral thrush. Oral thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by yeast. It’s estimated that upwards of 35 percent of newborns develop oral thrush in the first few months of life. Additionally, oral thrush is fairly common among children in their toddler years, as well as elderly patients who wear dentures. But oral thrush doesn’t just occur in children and the elderly. People who smoke are at particular risk for developing this mouth infection, as smoking can weaken the immune system. Pregnant women and patients who have compromised immune systems from medical conditions such as HIV, diabetes, and cancer also are at greater risk of developing oral thrush. Following is information from top dentists about oral thrush, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
Symptoms of Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is an overgrowth of the fungus Candida Albicans, which is a yeast-like organism that already lives naturally in our bodies in the mouth, skin, and intestines. They are a necessary presence in our bodies in order to balance good bacteria. However, when that balance is upset, Candida can begin multiplying rather quickly. This can result in an overgrowth and eventually oral thrush. The most common symptom of oral thrush is the development of lesions, or raised white spots, in the mouth, on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, throat, roof of the mouth, and/or tonsils. These lesions resemble cottage cheese and can bleed if scraped or brushed. In more severe cases, these lesions can spread into the esophagus, causing difficulty swallowing and fever. Oral thrush can even spread into other organs of the body, including the liver and lungs, especially in patients whose immune systems are already compromised.
Causes of Oral Thrush
Certain medical illnesses can cause imbalance of the body’s necessary microorganisms, potentially leading to oral thrush. Medical conditions such as HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), sickle cell anemia, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, and uncontrolled diabetes can lead to oral thrush. Additionally, newborn babies often develop oral thrush, especially if they suck on a pacifier. Denture wearers are also prone to developing oral thrush, especially if dentures are not properly cared for or are misaligned.
Diagnosis of Oral Thrush
Your family physician or family dentist is the healthcare professional who will need to examine you in order to diagnose oral thrush. She will do this by lightly scraping any lesions appearing in your mouth and sending the tissue sample to a lab in order to be examined under microscope. If oral thrush is suspected of spreading into the esophagus, additional tissue samples may be taken from the throat for examination and diagnostic evaluation.
Oral Thrush Prevention
The first and most effective line of defense in preventing oral thrush is practicing a healthy oral hygiene routine. Those who are especially prone to developing oral thrush, such as individuals with a compromised immune system, pregnant women, or denture wearers, should brush their teeth three times a day and floss once daily at a minimum. Mouthwash should not be used unless first clearing it with your family dentist or doctor. Additionally, those who suffer from oral thrush, as well as those who are at greater risk of developing it, should limit their consumption of processed and sugary foods, especially foods that contain yeast.
Treatment of Oral Thrush
Treatment for oral thrush typically includes anti-fungal medications prescribed for a period of between 10 and 14 days. These medications may be available in the form of tablets, lozenges, or liquid, for those who find it difficult to swallow tablets or use lozenges. Of course, if a medical condition led to the development or oral thrush, that condition must also be treated, especially if immuno-compromise is involved. Additionally, those who suffer from oral thrush due to dentures likely will need to get better-fitting dentures, as misaligned dentures are often the cause of oral thrush in denture wearers. Diabetics, too, may need to have their medications adjusted for type of medication used and/or dosage. For babies who have developed oral thrush, the first thing parents should do is check baby’s diaper, as diaper rash often occurs along with oral thrush. If you suspect your baby may have oral thrush, contact her doctor. But don’t panic, because oral thrush typically is easily treated in newborns. Finally, if you suspect you or a loved one has oral thrush, notify a top dentist or doctor in your area today to be evaluated.