Posted on 02 December 2022

You may feel like your mouth is a clean environment, but there are actually many types of bacteria living there. 

Some bacteria offer health benefits -- as they break down sugars before they begin to damage the teeth. Unfortunately, others can cause issues if left unchecked. 

One common condition is known as oral thrush -- and while often associated with young infants, toddlers, adults may also suffer from this affliction on occasion. 

What is oral thrush? What are the main causes and symptoms? What are the treatment options? Let’s take a closer look at what the professional community has to say. 

Oral Thrush: An Overview

This disease is caused by an accumulation of a specific type of oral fungus that can result in a yeast infection if left untreated. Note that thrush is often referred to asoropharyngeal candidiasis within medical circles. 

This condition is normally mild and can sometimes resolve itself without any type of medical intervention. However, infants and toddlers may be required to take certain medication that helps to clear up the infection. 

Those with already weakened immune systems are also at a higher risk of the thrush spreading to other parts of the body. 

Common Causes

A type of fungus known as Candida albicans (C. albicans) is primarily responsible for the development of thrush. While even healthy mouths will often have this fungus, it can sometimes replicate to levels that eventually result in an infection. 

Here are some of the main causes of oral thrush:

  • A weakened immune system (chronic illness).
  • Certain types of medications.
  • Cancer treatments including radiation and chemotherapy.
  • High blood sugar levels associated with acute diabetes.

In fact, there can be times when the presence of thrush may actually point to an underlying condition that was previously undiagnosed. 

Risk Factors

Are there any individuals who may be at a higher risk of developing thrush? We have already seen that a weakened immune system can lead to this condition. There are still some other scenarios to note including:

  • Age
  • Individuals who regularly suffer from dry mouth
  • Debilitating illnesses such as HIV, anemia or leukemia
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Wearing dentures

This is why it is wise to seek medical advice if the situations above relate to your current lifestyle. 

What are Some Primary Symptoms?

There are certain symptoms which a professional will look for when making a diagnosis. The most common is white or yellow patches within the mouth. These may be present on the surface of the tongue -- although they can also develop on the gums, lips and even the tonsils. The patches may be painful if accidentally scraped and they can bleed on occasion. 

Other signs that thrush is present might include:

  • A "cottony" feeling within the mouth.
  • Cracked skin around the corners of the lips.
  • Diminished taste.
  • A foul taste or odour
  • Irritation around dentures for no apparent reason

Although thrush may occasionally descend into the esophagus, this is a relatively rare scenario.

Is Oral Thrush Contagious? 

One potentially serious situation can develop if thrush spreads from the mouth to other areas of the body. Once again, this tends to affect those who already have weakened immune systems. There are also times when kissing can spread thrush from one individual to another. 

Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with thrush should also take caution. There are chances that this type of yeast infection can be transmitted to their unborn child via the placenta. Babies who have thrush may likewise pass on the infection to their mother when breastfeeding. 

Note that even if thrush is passed from person to person, symptoms may not always develop. This is because thrush is a relatively common bacteria. Strong immune systems can normally fight off a mild infection.


How will a physician determine if your condition is oral thrush? He or she will first look for the visible symptoms mentioned above. 

The patient will also be asked about any specific oral sensations that that they may be experiencing. It could likewise be prudent to perform a biopsy. In this case, a small amount of the suspected area will be scraped from the mouth. The sample is then taken to the laboratory for further evaluation. 

In the event that thrush has spread from the mouth into the esophagus, a throat swab culture may be warranted. This will once again be examined by a laboratory technician in order to provide a clear diagnosis. 

How Can this Condition be Effectively Treated?

Although there are cases when oral thrush may revolve itself with time, it is always smart to schedule a doctor's appointment if you feel that something is wrong. 

Doctos will normally recommend taking certain types of antifungal medication. Some come in the forms of lozenges or a mouthwash while others (such as fluconazole and itraconazole) will need to be taken orally. 

The fungal infection often clears up within six eight to weeks once the cycle of medication begins. However, it is crucial to continue following the regimen even if the visible symptoms of thrush are no longer present. This helps to ensure that it will be completely removed from your system.

Oral Thrush: Erring on the Side of Caution

While thrush is normally not a serious condition, the chances are high that it will not clear up without professional intervention. 

So, be sure to see your dentist regularly – and seek advice at the first sign of trouble from your dentist or doctor. This will help to ensure that it can be resolved before leading to more serious and long-term consequences. 



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