Oral Thrush: Causes, Risk Factors, Investigations, Treatment, Home Remedies, Prevention
Oral thrush is a medical condition which occurs due to accumulation or overgrowth of a fungus named Candida Albicans in the mouth resulting in creamy white lesions on the tongue or the inner cheeks. Patient may have pain and bleeding upon scraping of these lesions. Oral thrush can also spread to the roof of the mouth, tonsils, gums and posterior to the throat.
Babies, individuals who use inhaled corticosteroids, who wear dentures and who have a weak immune system are more likely to have oral thrush; however, anyone can have this condition. Oral thrush is not a major health problem. Only people with weak weaken immune system will have difficulty with this condition with it becoming more severe.
Treating comprises of topical and oral anti fungal medication.
Causes & Risk Factors of Oral Thrush
- Having a weak immune system especially due to other medical conditions or from taking steroids like prednisone increases the chances of having Candida infections like oral thrush.
- Antibiotics also alter the natural balance of the microorganisms in the body and can result in oral thrush.
- Certain illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes mellitus and vaginal yeast infections increase the chances of having oral thrush.
- Infants and people with compromised immune system are at an increased risk for developing oral thrush.
- People who wear dentures are at an increased risk for developing oral thrush.
- Individuals undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, are at an increased risk for developing oral thrush.
- Medical conditions which cause xerostomia (dry mouth) increases the risk for developing oral thrush.
- Smoking increases the risk of oral thrush.
Investigations for Oral Thrush
Oral Thrush can be diagnosed by looking at the lesions themselves. A sample of the lesions can be obtained and sent for testing to further confirm the diagnosis.
If the thrush has spread to the esophagus, then it’s a serious problem. Tests like throat culture and endoscopic examination are done to confirm the diagnosis and to find out which fungi is causing the thrush.
Treatment for Oral Thrush
The aim of treatment is to stop the spreading of the fungus. Treatment depends on the age, patient’s general health and underlying cause of the infection.
- When a breastfed infant has oral thrush, then it’s best that the mother and the baby both are treated for it. A mild antifungal medication is prescribed for the baby. For the mother, a topical antifungal cream can be prescribed.
- Healthy children or adults suffering from oral thrush can take acidophilus capsules/ liquid and unsweetened yogurt. These help in restoring the normal bacterial flora of the body.
- For adults with compromised immune systems, treatment for oral thrush comprises of antifungal medication in the form of liquid, lozenges or tablets.
- Amphotericin B is a medication prescribed when oral thrush doesn’t respond to the antifungal medications due to development of resistance to Candida Albicans.
- Amphotericin B is also prescribed to individuals with end-stage HIV infection.
- It is important to monitor the liver function by conducting regular blood tests, as antifungal medications can cause liver damage, especially if the patient has a history of liver disease.
Home Remedies for Oral Thrush
- If your infant has oral thrush, then rinse the pacifier, bottle, breast pump etc. in a mixture containing equal quantities of water and vinegar on a daily basis and air dry them to prevent any fungus growth.
- Follow good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once daily. Change your toothbrush regularly.
- Do not share your toothbrush.
- Do not use any mouthwash or sprays, as they can change the normal flora of the mouth.
- Breast-feeding mother should use nursing pads to prevent the spread of the fungus to the clothes.
- Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater solution comprising of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
- Consumption of 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar daily until the infection has resolved also helps a lot.
- Eating a clove of garlic daily also helps in fighting oral thrush.
- Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in half a cup of warm water and rinse your mouth with this mixture 3-4 times a day.
- Rinsing the mouth 3-4 times a day with a mixture of lemon grass and lemon juice in equal quantities also helps with oral thrush.
- Application of natural yoghurt and aloe vera gel to the lesions is also beneficial.
- Drinking cranberry juice daily also helps in fighting this infection.
Prevention of Oral Thrush
- It is beneficial to consume fresh-culture yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus/ bifidobacterium or taking acidophilus capsules when you are taking antibiotics.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly and brush your teeth after using a corticosteroid inhaler.
- It is highly recommended to have regular dental checkups, especially if the patient has diabetes or wears dentures.
- Any vaginal yeast infections developing during pregnancy should be treated immediately.
- Cut down your intake of sugar- and yeast-containing foods as they encourage the growth of candida.
- Cut down on your alcohol intake.
- Avoid stress as much as possible.