Thrush is an infection inside the mouth. It usually begins on the tongue and inside of the cheeks. It can spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils, and throat.
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Thrush is caused by yeast, a type of fungus. It is normally found in the mouth in small amounts. It can cause symptoms when too much of it grows and spreads.
Thrush is more common in babies and older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Having a weakened immune system due to health problems like HIV
- Taking certain medicines, such as corticosteroids and antibiotics
- Poor nutrition
- Eating a diet rich in carbohydrates
- Wearing devices in the mouth, such as dentures
- Thumb sucking
- Endocrine problems, such as diabetes, Cushing disease, and thyroid issues
- Cancer and cancer treatment
Some people with thrush may not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
- White patches on the inside of the cheeks, tongue, roof of mouth, and throat
- Redness and soreness
- Pain when eating or swallowing
- Loss of taste
- Cracking and redness at the corners of the mouth
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the mouth. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
If the cause is not clear, a sample of cells may be taken from the mouth for testing. This can be done with an oral swab, scraping, or rinse.
The goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of yeast in the mouth. Any underlying causes will also be treated.
- Antifungal medicine
- Supportive care, such as good oral hygiene and denture care
The risk of thrush may be lowered by:
- Managing underlying health problems
- Practicing good oral hygiene
- Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/thrush/index.html.
- Dentures. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at:https://www.mouthhealthy.org/all-topics-a-z/dentures.
- Hellstein JW, Marek CL. Candidiasis: red and white manifestations in the oral cavity. Head Neck Pathol. 2019 Mar;13(1):25-32.
- Oral candidiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/oral-candidiasis.
- April Scott, NP
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