If someone is concerned about Candida mouth, they are likely referring to oral thrush. The condition can seem startling! In the mouth, it appears as white patches that can be wiped away to reveal red areas. Some patients even compare the look of the white growths to cottage cheese. The more you know about this yeast infection on your tongue and in your mouth, the more you can do to prevent and treat this condition.
What Causes Oral Thrush?
Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans. According to a report in Frontiers in Microbiology, the fungus normally exists in approximately 45 percent of healthy adults’ mouths and oral thrush occurs in 5 to 7 percent of infants and nearly 20 percent of cancer patients.
Oral thrush most often appears in individuals with weakened immune systems. This includes infants, patients on antibiotics and individuals with poor nutrition or diseases such as leukemia, diabetes and HIV. The fungus can be carried on dentures and is more often found in patients with a high-sugar diet and a dry mouth. Patients who smoke or treat asthma with a corticosteroid inhaler may also be more likely to develop oral thrush.
Any part of the mouth can develop oral thrush, but the most common sites are the tongue, the inside of the cheeks and the roof of the mouth. If you have this condition, you may notice a burning or itching sensation or cracking at the corners of your mouth, but many patients have no symptoms at all. Infants may become fussy or irritable and have difficulty feeding. If the growths extend to the throat, you may experience difficulty swallowing. Rinsing with warm salt water may help relieve the symptoms.
Dentists often diagnose oral thrush simply from the appearance. Your dentist may also take a swab of the white growth to determine what organism is causing it. If your dentist thinks a systemic disease is causing the condition or doesn’t see improvement with treatment, they will often refer you to your primary care provider for blood tests and a physical exam.
The go-to treatments for oral thrush are nystatin and miconazole. These are medications your dentist or doctor can prescribe, and they commonly come in the form of mouth rinses or lozenges. Treatment typically lasts one to two weeks for mild to moderate cases and twice as long for severe oral thrush.
For patients with weakened immune systems, antifungal medications can also be used to prevent the fungus from overgrowing. According to the Mayo Clinic, nursing mothers and infants can pass the infection back and forth, and both may require prescription treatment.
When you have oral thrush, it is important to maintain good brushing and flossing practices. You should replace your toothbrush daily while the thrush is present.
Preventing Oral Thrush
Preventing oral thrush begins with brushing and flossing daily, cleaning your dentures properly and quitting smoking. If a medicine is causing the fungal growth in your mouth, your doctor may work with you to change your prescription. If dry mouth is contributing to the issue, your dentist may recommend chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free lozenges to increase saliva flow. For nursing mothers, consider using nursing pads to prevent fungal growth. Eating cranberries and other changes in your diet may also aid in the prevention of oral thrush.
Now that you know how to recognize a Candida mouth fungal infection, schedule regular visits with your dentist to help you determine the best prevention techniques for you.