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Oral Thrush

Causes, Symptoms and Treatments for Oral Thrush (Oral Candidosis)

Oral thrush (oral candidosis/candidiasis) is a fungal yeast infection that affects the mouth. This form of yeast is called Candida. Thrush is a common condition that can be treated with antifungal medications, and prevented with self-help techniques.

What is oral thrush?

Oral thrush is a fungal infection that occurs in the mouth. The type of fungus that causes this infection is a yeast known as candida. There are over 20 species of this fungi, the most common being Candida albicans.

This fungus is present in small amounts throughout the body: in the mouth, intestinal tract, skin and mucous membranes.

Usually, this fungus does not cause problems for its carrier. An infection only occurs when the candida fungus grows too much and infects the area it occurs in.

This fungus often causes genital yeast infections, nappy rash, oral thrush, skin candidiasis and, very rarely, invasive candidiasis where the fungus enters the bloodstream and organs. These forms of candidiasis tend to be harmless and easy to treat, apart from invasive candidiasis.

Oropharyngeal candidiasis, or oral thrush as it's commonly known, occurs when the yeast fungus multiplies and infects the mucous membranes in the mouth. This infection is not contagious.

Babies and young children are the most likely group to contract oral thrush, although adults can experience it too.

There are several available treatment options for oral thrush, including antifungal tablets, lozenges and liquids that can clear the infection in a matter of weeks.

Adults can obtain these treatments over the counter, but you should consult a doctor before treating babies or young children. Breastfeeding mothers should also seek medical advice before using any treatments.

Without effective treatment, oral thrush can spread to other parts of the body.

What causes oral thrush?

Oral thrush is a fungal yeast infection. The Candida bacteria thrive in dark wet areas, then multiply and cause the candidiasis infection.

You're more susceptible to oral thrush if you have had a recent course of antibiotics or corticosteroids. These can both reduce the levels of healthy bacteria in the mouth and body, which allows the fungus to grow.

You are also more likely to contract oral thrush if you use asthma inhalers or wear dentures.

Having cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, or having a weakened immune system can also increase your likelihood of experiencing oral thrush.

Babies are the most likely group to get oral thrush, especially if they were born prematurely. This is because their immune systems are not fully developed, and they are unable to resist the infection.

Nursing babies can pass oral thrush on through breastfeeding. This usually presents as nipple thrush in the mother. Baby-safe, topical, antifungal creams can be used to treat infection on the breasts.

What are the symptoms of oral thrush?

This infection can affect both adults and babies, but the symptoms differ between these groups.

In adults, the main symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • Cracking and redness at the corners of the mouth
  • White patches (usually with a cottage-cheese like consistency) on the tongue, lips, gums, roof of mouth and inner cheeks
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth and the inability to taste things properly
  • Difficulty eating and drinking
  • Mouth that feels like cotton, or has pain (e.g. sore tongue or gums)
  • Redness or soreness in mouth and throat

If the infection spreads to the throat, you may experience pain when swallowing.

Babies experience many of these symptoms but cannot express their discomfort. Parents should check their child's tongue for a white coating to see if they have oral thrush.

This coating should not rub off easily. If it does, it could just be milk. There may be white spots throughout the mouth too, so look out for those.

Other warning signs might be that baby doesn't want to feed or has nappy rash from the same infection.

How to treat oral thrush

While oral thrush is usually harmless, preventing the infection before it starts is the best way to ensure that you, or your child, remain healthy.

Practicing good oral health is key to this. Brush your teeth twice a day, keep your dentures clean and have regular check-ups. Rinse your mouth after eating or taking medicine, don't wear dentures at night and make sure they fit properly.

Smoking greatly affects your oral hygiene, so avoiding this will help reduce the risk of oral thrush. You could also try limiting the amount of foods you eat containing sugar or yeast.

Chlorhexidine (CHX) mouthwash may prevent oral infections for those with weakened immune systems.

Parents should sterilise dummies and bottles regularly to try to prevent infection in their child.

If you think your baby or young child has oral thrush, you should visit your doctor. Some over-the-counter antifungal medicines are not appropriate for children of this age, and the infection might be caused by something else.

Your doctor will prescribe a suitable treatment for the infection for children. Most treatments are used around four times a day and are work best if given to your child after a feed or drink.

Make sure you give your child the medication as directed. Typically, this will include treating them for 2 days after the infection has cleared to help prevent the infection from returning.

If your child's infection hasn't fully cleared after 2 weeks seek further medical advice. Your doctor may decide to perform a swab test.

The treatment for adults is normally antifungal medicines to be taken throughout the day. These are often available over the counter as tablets, lozenges and liquids (including mouthwash).

For mild to moderate infections, the treatment should be applied to the inside of the mouth. It can take 7-14 days to get rid of the oral thrush infection completely.

Visit your doctor if there is no change to the infection after 7 days of treatment. They'll give you a diagnosis by looking inside your mouth, or they may take a sample for testing in a lab.

If your doctor thinks your condition is severe, they will prescribe you antifungal medicine administered either through the mouth or into a vein (by a medical professional).

Underlying health problems can sometimes cause candidiasis. Treating these issues can help you avoid getting similar infections in the future. Your doctor will be able to advise on this.

How to buy Oral Thrush medications online

To buy Oral Thrush medications online, firstly complete a free consultation. This can be completed in as little as 5 minutes, and determines which treatment is going to be effective for you. Once approved, you can place your order, which includes free next-day delivery across the UK.