What Does Oral Thrush Look Like?
Fungus on the Tongue
Oral Thrush on the Lips
Oral Yeast Infection
Fungs Accumulated in the Throat
What Is Oral Thrush?
Oral thrush is a white rash usually appears on the tongue, inner cheeks, the gums, and tonsils. The rash looks like thick, white cottage cheese spread over the infected area. These white spots may become larger and join together and form patches known in medical terms as plaques. Soreness may cause pain while eating or swallowing. Depending on the severity, the inner portion of the mouth and the corner of the dentures may become red, and the mouth grows dry and tasteless. Oral thrush is generally found more in toddlers, babies, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. TMJ is another oral symptom you may experience and a tmj specialist can help.
The strange-looking infection is caused by the Candida albicans fungus, which is a type of yeast. The fungus is mainly present in the mouth and other parts of the body, and usually cause no problems. However, it can sometimes cause vaginal infections in women, as well as diaper rash among infants.
Oral thrush is also called oropharyngeal candidiasis. A small amount of Candida albicans fungus thrives in the mouths of up to 75 per cent of the world population, but usually doesn’t cause harm. However, if the fungus starts growing uncontrollably, it could develop into an infection in the mouth. In infants, oral thrush results in white bumps that form on the inner cheeks and tongue. Once proper treatment is received, however, these growths go away.
Being a mild medical infection, oral thrush very rarely causes complications. However, when it comes to small infants or those with impaired immune systems, it can turn serious if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Thrush?
The symptoms of an oral thrush infection are the following:
- The areas inside the mouth, inner cheeks, tonsils, and throat become whitish and painful.
- Pain is felt while brushing teeth and when affected areas are scraped.
- Pain is severe when biting or swallowing food.
- Food gets stuck in the throat or the middle of the chest.
- Thrush can spread across other parts of the body, such as the lungs and liver; it spreads faster among people with weaker immune systems, such as people with HIV or cancer.
- If oral thrush spreads beyond the esophagus, the person develops a fever.
- The areas in the mouth become red and sore due to steroids or antibiotics.
- The area below the dentures becomes red and painful.
- Small babies find it difficult to drink and eat, and usually drool saliva.
- One's sense of taste is altered.
An infection of the fungus that creates oral thrush can be passed between infants and breastfeeding mothers. Infants can pass the oral thrush infection to the mothers during breastfeeding, and vice versa. These symptoms of the infection can be seen in both the mother and infant:
- Infants suffering from the infection may become fussy or irritable when feeding on breast milk.
- Mothers will have sensitive, itchy, and reddish nipples.
- The skin color around the areola will change.
- Severe, stabbing pain in the breast is felt while feeding the infant.
What Are the Causes of Oral Thrush?
The white rash is due to the Candida fungus, which lives in the mouth and acts as part of the digestive tract. It is commonly a normal resident of the mouth and remains under control when other organisms like bacteria work over it. Sometimes, though, due to illness or intake of medications like corticosteroids or antibiotics, the balance of the fungi in the mouth is disturbed, creating more fungi in the mouth and thus causing oral thrush.
Oral thrush tends to occur when the immune system is impacted due to the intake of certain medications or therapy that leads to a reduction in the number of good bacteria or microorganisms that naturally prevent infection from spreading. Cancer treatment therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, also damage and kill healthy cells. Hence, this can lead to greater susceptibility to oral thrush and other kinds of infections.
HIV, AIDS, and leukemia are other diseases that weaken the immune system and also increase the risk of oral thrush. If an individual has uncontrolled diabetes, this would increase the level of sugar in the saliva. The yeast that causes oral thrush uses this excess sugar to fuel its growth in the mouth.
When it comes to newborns, oral thrush can be contracted during birth. The fungus that causes oral thrush also leads to yeast infections, so pregnant women with vaginal yeast infections can pass this infection to their babies during the delivery.
Making a Diagnosis of Oral Thrush
If the mother or infant develops oral thrush, one should immediately call the doctor. Also, if teenagers or older children are suffering from the infection, seek medical attention immediately.
There is no separate test for oral thrush, and the doctor can easily determine if there is any infection while treating the patient. To find out if oral thrush is present, the doctor will test the mouth. Depending on the nature of the oral thrush infection, the doctor may ask the patient to undergo other tests.
The medical tests required to determine the severity of the fungus causing the infection are:
- A throat culture test, to test throat fungus
- An endoscopy of the throat, to test the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
- X-rays of the esophagus
What Is the Treatment for Oral Thrush?
The symptoms of the disease are the worst, and it sometimes takes longer to detect the real reason behind the health issue and its symptoms. Treatment is easy and effective, but people with weaker immune systems are usually difficult to treat. The doctor normally prescribes anti-fungal medications, in tablet, lozenge, or liquid form, to be taken for two weeks.
If there is any doubt, the doctor may ask you to undergo a few more tests, because the infection could be a symptom of other health issues. The doctor may ask for a blood test, which is mainly required to find out the percentage of iron, vitamins, and folate in the blood to help with the diagnosis.
In some cases, if oral thrush does not respond to treatment, the doctor will suggest a saliva test, wherein a saliva sample is sent to the laboratory for a detailed examination. The report can offer more clarity about the stage of the infection.
The doctor may suggest a biopsy, which is needed to confirm the report regarding the status of the oral thrush infection.
The anti-thrush tablets called fluconazole are a highly effective medicine for clearing fungal and thrush infections from the body. The tablets should be taken under careful conditions. When taken for seven days, they usually work effectively and clear the oral thrush completely.
Prevention of Oral Thrush
To prevent oral thrush, practice good oral hygiene, which includes brushing your teeth, including your tongue, twice a day and flossing them once.
- After a thrush infection, replace your toothbrush.
- Wash your mouth clean after you eat food or consume drinks.
- Rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth after taking medications.
- Lightly massage the gums to make your teeth and gums clean and stronger.
Lifestyle and Coping with Oral Thrush
In case of thrush infections, consult a dentist. Medications should be taken as per the doctor’s guidance to help you completely overcome the infection. Regular medications will certainly help you eliminate oral thrush.