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Thrush is an infection of the mouth. It usually begins on the tongue and inside of the cheeks, and spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils, and throat.
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Thrush is caused by yeast, a type of fungus. The immune system can normally fight off this fungus but the fungus can grow and spread if the immune system is weakened.
Certain situations can weaken the immune system or change the normal bacterial balance in the mouth or body. These changes increase the risk of thrush. Other factors include:
In some cases, you may not have symptoms. In those that have symptoms, thrush may cause:
Thrush can spread beyond the mouth. Complications include infections that spread to the:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, including an inspection of your mouth. Diagnosis can usually be made based on your symptoms. Your doctor may take a sample of cells from the affected area to examine under a microscope.
The goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of bacteria and yeast in the mouth. If any underlying conditions contribute to thrush, they will also be treated.
Antifungal medications are used to treat thrush. Medications come in the form of tablets, rinses, or lozenges that dissolve in the mouth.
If you wear dentures, clean and brush them daily. You also need to clean the inside of your mouth and tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Oral hygiene practices may aid in healing. This includes:
To help reduce your chances of thrush:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Canadian Dental Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Adults under 40. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-under-40. Accessed December 14, 2017.
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. Updated August 4, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Dentures. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/dentures. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Kelland, K. Unregulated Antibiotic Sales May Increase Risk of “Superbugs”—UK Review. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2016;62(3):i-iii. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/62/3/i/2463008.
Ohnmacht GA, Phan GQ, Mavroukakis SA, et al. A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the effects of nystatin on the development of oral irritation in patients receiving high-dose intravenous interleukin-2. J Immunother. 2001;24(2):188-192.
Oral candidiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114902/Oral-candidiasis. Updated April 27, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 12/14/2017