Dealing with Oral Thrush: Causes and Solutions

Oral Thrush

Thrush, a fungal infection of your mouth, often occurs in young babies and children but it can affect anyone. This may result in creamy white lesions on your tongue or inner cheeks. Dry mouth or diabetes, among other health conditions, and certain medications are common causes of this condition. Treatment usually includes antifungal medications.

What is thrush

Oral Thrush

Thrush is a fungal (yeast) infection that can grow in your mouth, throat, and other parts of your body. With oral thrush (oral candidiasis), white, raised, cottage cheese-like lesions (spots) may develop on your tongue and cheeks. Thrush can quickly become irritable and cause pain and redness in the mouth. Thrush occurs when there is overgrowth of Candida, a type of fungus. 

Another term for thrush in the mouth or throat is oropharyngeal candidiasis. Healthcare providers treat thrush with antifungal medication. If your immune system is healthy, thrush is a minor problem that goes away a few weeks after starting treatment.

Who can get thrush

While thrush can affect anyone, some people are at higher risk, including:

  • Children under 1 month of age
  • Small children
  • Adults aged 65 years or older
  • People with weakened immune systems, it difficult to control

Symptoms of thrush

Thrush usually develops suddenly. A common sign is the appearance of creamy white, slightly raised sores in your mouth – usually on your tongue or inner cheeks. Sores may also occur on the roof of your mouth, gums, tonsils, or the back of your throat. Other symptoms may include:

  • Redness and pain inside and at the corners of your mouth
  • Loss of sense of taste (ageusia)
  • Feeling like cotton in your mouth

The sores may be painful and even bleed a little when you scrape them or brush your teeth. In severe cases, the lesions may spread into your esophagus and cause:

  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • You might get a fever if the infection goes beyond your esophagus.
  • The feeling of food stuck in the throat or chest

Thrush may spread to the lungs, liver, or skin. This often happens in people with cancer, HIV, or other conditions that weaken the immune system.

Causes of Thrush

Most people have small amounts of Candida fungus in their mouth, digestive tract, and skin. When illnesses, stress, or medications upset this balance, the fungus grows out of control and causes thrush. Drugs that can make yeast grow and lead to infection include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Contraceptive pills

Is Thrush Contagious

Thrush can be contagious for people at risk (such as people with weakened immune systems or who take certain medications). In people with healthy immune systems, it is uncommon to pass thrush through kissing or other close contact. In most cases, thrush isn’t particularly contagious (meaning, it doesn’t spread from person to person), but it is transmissible (meaning, you can catch it in other ways). If you are worried about getting thrush from another person who has it, avoid coming in contact with their saliva (spit). If you are close to someone with thrush it is wise to wash your hands as often as possible.

Risk Factors for Thursh

Candida infections are more likely to develop in infants and people who:

  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Cancer
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Poorly fitting dentures

Complications of Thrush

Thrush rarely causes complications in people with healthy immune systems. But if your immune system is weak, Candida can enter your bloodstream and spread to other areas of your body, such as your eyes, brain, or heart. This type of infection is serious and can lead to septic shock, which is life-threatening.

Diagnosis of Thrush

A healthcare provider can usually tell right away if you have thrush by seeing the distinctive white lesions on your mouth, tongue, or cheeks. Lightly brushing the wounds reveals a red, tender area that may bleed a little. Microscopic examination of tissue from a lesion can confirm whether you have thrush. If thrush spreads to your esophagus, your healthcare provider may:

  • Take a throat culture (clean the back of your throat with sterile cotton and study the microorganisms under a microscope).
  • Have an endoscopy of your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine (examine the lining of these areas with a lighted camera attached to the tip of a flexible tube).
  • Take an X-ray of your esophagus.

Treatment of Thrush

The specific treatment of thrush is antifungal medications:

Healthcare providers usually prescribe antifungals (such as nystatin) to treat thrush. These medications are available in tablets, lozenges, or liquids that are “swirled” in your mouth before swallowing. Usually, you will need to take these medicines for 10 to 14 days. Your healthcare provider will recommend specific treatments depending on your age and the cause of the infection.

Children and adults with healthy immune systems usually respond well to antifungal treatment. But in people with weakened immune systems, thrush symptoms may be more severe and harder to treat. Antifungals can cure thrush in one to two weeks. Continue medication to ensure all fungus is killed.

Prevention for Thrush

Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of thrush:

  • Practice good oral hygiene- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily for good oral hygiene.
  • Avoid certain mouthwashes or sprays- Certain products can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in your mouth. Consult your dentist or doctor to determine which mouthwashes are safe for you to use.
  • Visit your dentist regularly- This is especially important if you have diabetes or wear dentures.
  • Limit the amount of sugar and yeast-containing foods you eat- Bread beer, and wine are known to promote the growth of Candida.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco- Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to help you quit smoking.


Finally, thrush is a fungal infection that can cause white spots in your mouth and throat, causing discomfort and pain, especially for infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. It may be triggered by factors such as medications and health conditions. Treatment involves antifungal medications, usually taken for 10 to 14 days. Good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups, and avoiding certain foods can help prevent thrush. If you suspect thrush, consult a healthcare provider immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment. You can manage thrush effectively and maintain oral health by taking preventive measures and timely care.

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