Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. It usually begins on the tongue and inside of the cheeks. It may also spread to the palate, gums, tonsils, and throat.
Severe, untreated thrush can spread to the:
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Thrush is caused by a fungus. There are many microorganisms that normally live in the mouth. When these organisms become imbalanced, the fungus can grow and cause thrush. The imbalance of organisms may be caused by a medical condition or medication.
Factors that may increase your baby's chance of getting thrush include:
Factors that may increase your child's chance of getting thrush include:
Thrush may cause the following in infants:
Thrush may cause the following in children:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, including an inspection of the mouth. Diagnosis can usually be done after physical exam. A sample of cells may be taken from the affected area. The sample will be examined under a microscope to confirm thrush or look for other infections.
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.
In infants, antifungal medications may be a gel or a rinse that is swished around your baby's mouth. Systemic medications may be used if:
Breastfeeding mothers of babies with thrush can use a topical antifungal medication on their nipples to reduce the baby's infection.
Antifungal medications for children may include oral tablets, rinses, or lozenges that dissolve in the mouth.
Oral hygiene practices that may aid in healing include:
To help reduce your child's chance of getting thrush, take these steps:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Canadian Dental Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs. Fluoride toothpaste use for young children. J Am Dent Assoc. 2014 Feb;145(2):190-191.
Healthy habits. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/thrush/. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Oral candidiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114902/Oral-candidiasis. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Oral candidiasis in infants. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T435286/Oral-candidiasis-in-infants. Accessed January 28, 2021.
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.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC Last Updated: 01/28/2021