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Oral thrush

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Oral thrush

What is oral thrush?

Oral thrush is a fungal (yeast) infection of the mouth. It is caused by the fungus Candida albicans. People of all ages can suffer from oral thrush.

What causes oral thrush?

The mouth contains many microorganisms. One of these is the fungus Candida albicans. This is the same fungus which is associated with vaginal yeast infections. Many people have Candida but never suffer any ill effects because of it. This is because the growth of Candida is usually kept under control by the presence of normal bacteria.

However the growth of Candida can get out of control if there is a change in the chemistry of the mouth which favours Candida over the other microorganisms present. Such changes can occur for a number of reasons, for example as a side-effect of chemotherapy. Changes can also appear as a consequence of immune deficiencies relating to old age or AIDS.

Oral thrush is also very common in people with dentures because if the dentures don’t fit well, they may cause breaks in the mucous membranes, which in turn will act as a gateway for Candida.

As a result, oral thrush is most common in infants, the elderly and people whose immune system has been suppressed, for example as a result of having AIDS.

What are the symptoms of oral thrush?

  • The symptoms of oral thrush are white, cream or yellow spots in the mouth. These spots are slightly raised and usually aren’t painful.
  • In adults, thrush can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.

If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your doctor for advice.

How is thrush treated?

The condition that is causing the thrush needs to be brought under control. Once this has been treated, the thrush itself can be cured. However this isn’t always straightforward. For example, with AIDS patients, it is not possible to correct the immune deficiency, therefore other treatments must be sought such as an oral treatment using drugs.

If your oral thrush is caused by your dentures, it may be time to invest in new, better fitting ones.

If whatever is causing the thrush can be brought under control, it will usually go away after a few days of treatment with a fungicide.

Won’t oral hygiene be difficult if I have oral thrush?

Yes. Your mouth will probably get so sensitive that regular oral hygiene will be difficult. In such cases, use a very soft toothbrush.

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