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Oral thrush

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Oral thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Apart from the mouth, the tongue is also affected. Oral thrush can occur in infants, children and adults of all age groups. However, the condition can be medically cured.

Symptoms of Oral Thrush

Initially, the symptoms go unnoticed and they develop over the time as the infection spreads. The symptoms are:

  • White lesions (creamy) on the inner cheeks, tongue, gum and the roof of the mouth (palate)
  • Corners of the mouth dry and crack
  • Bleeding from the lesions on scrapping
  • Loss of taste
  • Pain in swallowing food
  • Painful lesions, soreness inside mouth and throat
  • burning sensation in the tongue
  • unpleasant cottony taste in the mouth

Causes of Oral Thrush

Oral thrush occurs when the body fails to control the growth of Candida species. This happens due to plenty of factors that weaken immunity of the body. They are:

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  • Intake of corticosteroid (prednisone) drugs
  • Smoking
  • Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Long term antibiotic therapy
  • Diabetes mellitus, anaemia, HIV/AIDS
  • Poor dental hygiene, wearing dentures
  • Vaginal infections
  • Excessive dryness inside mouth – xerostomia
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12, thiamine, niacin and iron

When to see a doctor?

Check with your doctor on observing the symptoms. If your infant has developed oral thrush, then you are also susceptible to acquiring it via breastfeeding. Make sure you seek your doctor’s advice in this regard at the earliest.

Diagnosis of Oral Thrush

The doctor usually conducts a physical exam to verify the symptoms of thrush. The characteristic lesions and the appearance of the mouth form the primary basis of diagnosis. A small sample of tissue may be swabbed from your mouth for lab testing of the fungus.

Furthermore, blood test may be conducted to rule out the underlying cause behind the thrush.

Endoscopy of the throat is done when the infection spreads to the esophagus.

Treatment of Oral Thrush

The treatment depends on the underlying cause, age and the severity of the symptoms. If the oral thrush has been caused by certain habits (smoking, pills, wearing dentures), then your doctor will suggest specific changes that would heal the lesions automatically.

If the infection persists then antifungal medications are prescribed, which could be in the form of pills, drops, mouth wash or lozenges.

Doctors also suggest acidophilus capsules to maintain a balance of healthy flora inside the mouth. The infection goes away when the “good” bacterial flora is restored.

Home Remedies and Prevention

  • Oral hygiene is mandatory for everyone. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly.
  • Rinse your mouth properly after brushing. You can use warm saline water or 3% hydrogen peroxide solution as mouth wash
  • Do not overuse mouth wash
  • Reduce intake of sugar and cleanse your mouth every time you munch on something sweet
  • Consume fresh unsweetened yogurt to get rid of the infection quickly
  • Make sure your dentures are clean, disinfected and they fit you properly
  • Have cold, liquid and soft foods if the infection is painful
  • Breast feeding mothers should use nursing pads to control spread of infection

Oral thrush although gets cured completely can return if you fail to take the necessary precautions and incorporate those lifestyle changes suggested by your doctor. So take care for quick recovery.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015

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