If you notice a whitening of the top layer of the tongue or the presence of white spots or patches on your tongue – it could be an infection. It can also be seen with irritation, infection, or chronic inflammation of the surface of your tongue. Certain oral infections, notably Candida yeast infection, also known as oral thrush, are characterized by a white tongue.
Oral thrush or oral candidiasis, is a yeast/fungi infection of the genus candida that often develops on the mucous membrane of your mouth. For the majority of people, oral thrush does not cause any severe problems. However, the story is the opposite for people with a weakened immune system. For them, the signs and symptoms might be much more severe.
According to statistics, the outcome for oral thrush is usually very good. Individuals often respond well to oral thrush treatment. However, oral thrush might reappear, especially if the causing factor such as smoking is not removed.
Here we discuss all aspects of oral thrush, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is Yeast Infection or Oral Thrush?
A yeast germ known as Candida often causes the infection thrush. Your oral cavity is the most common site where Candida causes infection. Candida infection, when it occurs in the mouth, is called oral thrush. Other common locations where thrush might develop are the vagina, nappy area, and nail folds.
Yeast is only a tiny, microscopic fungus that is present all around you. – on your body and even inside your body. In general, yeast does more good than bad. In low amounts, yeast exists harmoniously with other microorganisms inside your mouth, body, and throat.
Infections may only occur when some adverse condition causes the yeast somewhere in your body to multiply. If you think you have a yeast infection in your body, visit your doctor to get the condition diagnosed and treated.
In case you notice a strange white rash-like growth in the mucus layer of your mouth, this condition is called oral thrush. It is an infectious disease caused by the candida fungus, which is yeast.
You can get rashes in your mouth and also in other parts of your body. This infection can also cause diaper rash in infants or vaginal yeast infections common among women.
Anyone can get a thrush. But the infection happens most often to babies and toddlers, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Babies and older adults probably get affected because they have reduced immunity. The infection is also visible in individuals with suppressed immune systems or having certain health conditions. It can also affect individuals who take certain antifungal medications.
This infection is a minor problem if you are healthy. Oral thrush might not cause problems. In contrast, the symptoms might be more severe and even more difficult to control if you have a weakened immune system.
Fast Facts on Oral Thrush or Yeast Infection
Some key points you need to know about yeast infection.
- Yeast infection or oral thrush is a commonly occurring condition, but it does not cause significant problems for many.
- The candida fungus typically survives on your mucous membranes, but if too much grows in one area, it can cause symptoms.
- People with a reduced immune system are the worst affected by thrush.
- The infection can be noticed more regularly after chemotherapy or radiotherapy to the head and neck region.
- This condition is more pronounced in people who wear dentures, take steroids, or have diabetes.
- The most apparent symptom seen in case of thrush is the white-colored or creamy deposits in your mouth.
- Oral treatments or local antifungal treatments might help treat thrush.
- By practicing good hygiene, to prevent the infection.
Yeast Infection Symptoms
Children and adults
Initially, the symptoms are so minor that you might not even notice them. Symptoms and signs may include:
- White, creamy lesions are noticed on your tongue, inner cheeks. Sometimes they are seen even on the roof of your mouth, gums, and tonsils. Lesions might appear even on the back of your throat.
- Some people might have slightly raised lesions that have a cottage cheese-like appearance.
- Inflammation, redness, burning, or soreness that might be severe enough to cause difficulty in swallowing or eating.
- You may see slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped.
- Cracks and redness occur at the corners of your mouth.
- One may have a cottony feeling in the mouth.
- There could be a loss of taste.
- If you have irritation, redness, and pain under the dentures, they are called denture stomatitis.
In severe cases, the infection is usually seen in people with cancer or a weakened immune system from AIDS/HIV. In such a scenario, the lesions might spread downward into the esophagus.
The esophagus is the muscular, long tube stretching from the back of your mouth to your stomach. If this condition occurs, you may experience difficulty swallowing hard food. Hence you have to take semi-solid food or liquids. You might also experience pain or feel as if food items are getting stuck in your throat.
Infants and breastfeeding mothers
In addition to the distinctive white mouth lesions in thrush, infants might have trouble feeding or be fussy and irritable. There are chances that the infant may pass the infectious diseases to their mother while they are breastfeeding.
Women whose breasts are infected with the candida yeast might experience symptoms such as:
- Red, sensitive, cracked, or itchy nipples.
- Flaky or shiny skin on the darker, circular area around the nipple or areola.
- Throbbing or stabbing pain deep within the breast.
- One may also have unusual pain during nursing. Also, you might notice painful nipples, especially between feedings.
When to see a doctor
If you or your kid develop white lesions or creamy layers inside your mouth, see your doctor or dentist immediately. Oral thrush is generally uncommon in healthy older children, teenagers, and adults.
If you notice any signs and symptoms of yeast infection developing, see your doctor and seek medical advice to determine if further evaluation is essential. Your dentist will try to check for an underlying medical condition or other causes.
What is Treatment for Yeast Infection?
Treatment of thrush depends on the severity and cause of your infection. If your doctor identifies that some reversible condition causes the disease, then those factors are corrected as part of the treatment plan. These conditions could be ill-fitting dentures, taking antibiotics, smoking, or even poorly controlled diabetes.
Infants, toddlers, and children often do not require treatment. In kids who have thrush that persisted for more than a few weeks, your pediatrician may prescribe antifungal nystatin drops.
Once the treatment is started, the infection goes away within a couple of weeks. Only in some cases can it return. However, for adults who have recurring cases of infection with no known cause, their doctor will evaluate them for underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to thrush. Generally, infants may have several episodes of oral thrush during their first year of life.
In most cases, your doctors will usually prescribe anti-thrush drugs, such as miconazole or nystatin in the form of gel, drops, or lozenges. Alternatively, your doctor might prescribe a topical oral suspension which is washed around the mouth and then swallowed.
Oral or intravenously administered antifungals may be the best choice for patients with weakened immune systems. If treatment is not working, your doctor might prescribe other medicines. However, it should only be used as a last resort due to the adverse side effects, including fever, nausea, and vomiting.
1 Locally applied treatment
For mild oral thrush symptoms, your dentist will prescribe the usual miconazole mouth gel for a week. Sometimes you might need a two-week course. Instead of miconazole gel, your doctor might use Nystatin drops to treat your thrush.
You should follow the instructions marked on the packet:
- You should use the gel or drops after your meals.
- Smear a little amount of gel on your affected areas and use your clean finger to spread it out. Apply this four times a day.
- You can use a dropper to place the liquid drops inside your mouth.
- Ideally, try to avoid eating or drinking for about 30 minutes after using the drops or gel. This step would help prevent medicine wastage.
2 Anti-thrush tablets
Tablets for oral thrush contain a medicine called fluconazole. The medicine can help to clear fungal infections and thrush infections from your mouth. Your doctor will prescribe these tablets only in more severe cases. For example, individuals with a poor immune system often develop extensive oral thrush. Your doctor will prescribe tablets for a week, and the yeast infection will usually clear your oral thrush.
3 Adjustment of other medication
If you are taking other medicines that might have given rise to symptoms of oral thrush, like antibiotics or steroids, your doctor might need to change this medication. Else they might reduce the dose to help clear up your oral thrush.
4 Referral to a Specialist
Your doctor might refer you to a specialist if the above measures do not help clear your oral thrush infection. If you have particularly severe disease or other health-related issues, your doctor might refer you to a specialist. It happens when a person is undergoing chemotherapy or taking other medicines that weaken their immune system.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies to Treat Yeast Infection
The following measures might help in reducing your risk of developing yeast infection or oral thrush:
- Practice good oral hygiene daily. Try to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily or as frequently as your dentist recommends. Also, try to replace your toothbrush often till the time your infection clears up. Avoid sharing toothbrushes.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water. Dissolve a half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water. Swish the rinse, and then throw it out. The rinse will reduce your oral infection.
- Disinfect your dentures often. Remove your dentures at night. Also, try to clean your dentures regularly. Make sure dentures fit correctly and do not cause any irritation. Ask your dentist – the best method to clean your dentures.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Especially people who have diabetes or you are wearing dentures.
- Keep a close watch on what you eat. Try to limit the amount of sugar-containing food. The sugary food may encourage the growth of the fungus candida.
- Also, try to maintain good blood sugar control if you are diabetic. Even if you are diabetic, having well-controlled blood sugar can drastically reduce the amount of sugar in your saliva. As a result, it would discourage the growth of Candida.
With treatment, yeast infection in your mouth will disappear after a couple of weeks. However, if you are prone to it, you may need to visit your specialist doctor.
Sometimes the yeast infection goes away and comes back. This often happens because the underlying cause has not gone away. Whatever be the reason, your doctor will be able to suggest the best treatment.