A Guide to Oral Thrush

Let’s start with the obvious question: what is oral thrush? Everybody has a certain amount of thrush in their mouths, including babies. It is caused by a fungus called candida which, under certain conditions, turns into the thrush infection in the mouth.

While oral thrush is correctly described as an infection, it cannot be transmitted from person to person as it is not contagious. Oral thrush occurs because a person may have a weakened immune system, an underlying illness or if the oral environment changes (for example, if not enough saliva is being produced). These sorts of alterations can cause the candida fungus to turn into thrush.

For the main part, oral thrush is not harmful. It is primarily manifested as white or yellowish spots in the mouth and in the throat. These spots can be scraped away and they may cause some pain and discomfort in the mouth. The infected areas of the mouth can appear inflamed or irritated and a sensation similar to a slight burning has been described.

One of the biggest factors is causing oral thrust in adults is dentures, particularly if the dentures are ill-fitting or not being looked after properly. To help minimise oral thrush, denture wearers should keep their dentures clean and follow their dentist’s advice on looking after their dentures and maintaining their oral hygiene. If your dentures are ill-fitting, you may need to visit your dentist to have a new pair made which fit the shape of your mouth better. This will help to reduce the level of oral thrush.

Of course, it is not simply denture wearers who suffer from oral thrush. Newborn babies are particularly susceptible, as are adults with diabetes, drug problems, poor diets and immune deficiencies.

In severe cases of oral thrush, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor will usually be able to prescribe anti-fungal medicines, such as fluconazole, to ease the condition. These medicines are available in the form of tablets, lozenges and gels. It is also important to remember that oral thrush, in rare cases, can also be a symptom of an underlying illness. In particular, it can be a sign that AIDS or cancer are present. Anti-fungal treatments will also help in these cases, both to treat oral thrush and to prevent it from occurring.

In most cases, however, the treatment of thrush will focus more on finding and removing the cause. For example, oral thrush can be caused by a poor diet, in which case your doctor will probably recommend improvements in that area. Once the cause has been removed, the thrush can be treated effectively with anti-fungal medicines and it should not return. Smoking can also be a cause of oral thrush.

There are certain groups of people for whom oral thrush can create increased complications, above and beyond the soreness that comes with the infection. For example, diabetes sufferers can have increased glucose in their saliva which can cause very high levels of thrush to occur. For diabetes sufferers, oral thrush can escalate into a serious condition which infects the skin, the blood and the internal organs. If the symptoms of thrush are present, they should have them treated as a matter of urgency.

Newly born babies are also susceptible to thrush – research shows that around one in every seven babies suffers from oral thrush. These are not usually serious bouts of thrush and often they are painless, so the baby is not even aware of the condition. Other cases can cause some slight pain and discomfort, but it is very rarely a serious condition. Usually, your doctor will treat the thrush with an anti-fungal gel which can be applied directly to the affected area.

Nobody is entirely sure why newly born babies suffer from oral thrush. Doctors recommend ensuring that your baby maintains a healthy diet. You must also make sure that bottles, dummies and other teething toys, are sterilised. On occasions, babies that have oral thrush can find it difficult to feed. The infection can also boomerang backwards and forwards between mother and baby during breast-feeding. This can cause the mother to have pain, itchiness and flaky skin around the breasts.