Dr. Michael Handler

Oral Thrush - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

By Dr. Michael Handler

Most Canadians have had a yeast infection at some point in their lives, but not everyone has had it in their mouths. Oral thrush is a type of candidiasis (yeast) that develops in the mouth tissues, and it’s most common in infants and toddlers. Discover what to look out for and whether you need to worry about this condition. 

Causes of Oral Thrush

Babies, young children, and older adults are more prone to getting oral thrush because their immune systems are weakened or are not operating at optimal strength. Seniors often have reduced immunity, and this can make oral thrush easier to contract. 

Factors that contribute to helping oral thrush flourish include:

  • poor oral care, 
  • smoking
  • using an appliance like a denture or a retainer that isn’t kept completely clean, 
  • taking antibiotics that destroy the bacteria in the mouth and allow candida to breed. 

Patients with poor overall health or conditions such as diabetes, cancer or HIV/Aids are more likely to develop thrush than healthy people. 

Symptoms of Oral Thrush

There are several signs that you or a family member has oral thrush. If you have one or more of these symptoms, you could benefit from scheduling an appointment with our dental practice:

  1. Red, sore or swollen gums or other oral tissues
  2. Whitish coating on the inside of your cheeks, tongue, throat or the roof of your mouth
  3. Loss of ability to taste
  4. Bad breath
  5. Soreness while eating 
  6. Difficulty swallowing your food
  7. Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth
  8. Thick, cottony sensation in your mouth. 

Fortunately, oral thrush can usually be both easily cured and prevented from returning if you take these oral hygiene steps. 

Treating Oral Thrush

The treatment of oral thrush depends partly on addressing the reason for the infection. Badly-fitting dentures should be replaced. A patient who smokes should stop, while one who uses antibiotics is encouraged to finish their treatment. Someone with diabetes may need to consult their family doctor to determine whether the condition is adequately controlled. 

In addition to these steps, our dentists might recommend an antifungal medication such as nystatin (Mycostatin, Nilstat, Nystex) to treat the condition. These products come in a mouth rinse or lozenges for mild cases, while more severe cases could require stronger medications like fluconazole (Diflucan) or itraconazole (Sporanox).

Preventing Oral Thrush

It’s almost always better to prevent a condition from occurring than to try and treat it when it does, so even if you’ve had oral thrush before, these measures could help you avoid getting it again.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

Proper daily hygiene is the primary action for avoiding most unpleasant dental problems. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, as well as after consuming sugary food or drinks. See your dentist regularly for a general check-up, and have your teeth cleaned professionally every six to 12 months. 

Get Well Fitting Dentures

Too many people walk around wearing ill-fitting dentures, which can cause problems ranging from oral thrush to mouth abscesses, gum disease, bite misalignment, jaw pain and headaches. Loose dentures also create a perfect hiding place for food to accumulate and bacteria to breed. Our dentists can help you resolve issues with your dentures or provide you with new ones that fit better. 

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Eat as healthily as you can by following a balanced diet low in sugar and yeast. Stop smoking and avoid using antibiotics unless it’s essential. They not only upset the delicate balance of your system, but you can also develop tolerance to the drugs that impacts their efficacy. Get the right amount of exercise for your age and physical condition, and drink enough water daily to stay well-hydrated. 

Use a Mouth Rinse

Whether you use a commercial product or a warm salt water solution, rinsing your mouth can supplement your daily brushing and flossing routine. For patients undergoing cancer treatments, those who take immunosuppressant medications or have chronic medical conditions, a chlorhexidine mouthwash like Peridex or Hibiclens might be a valuable addition to your routine. 

For more information on oral thrush and its treatment or to schedule your check-up and teeth cleaning, please call our dentists in Scarborough at 416-267-4661, or click here to book online

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