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Oral Thrush - Symptoms, Risks, Diagnosis, treatment, and Prevention

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Oral Thrush - Symptoms, Risks, Diagnosis, treatment, and Prevention

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Oral thrush is a condition where a yeast infection (fungal infection) affects the oral cavity. The fungus causing this condition is called Candida albicans.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At March 3, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 23, 2023


Oral thrush is also commonly known as candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, or thrush. This condition is more widely seen in infants and old adults as they are known to have weaker immune systems. The fungus Candida albicans is a common inhabitant of various parts of our body like the oral cavity, vagina, and throat. However, in some people with weaker immune systems, this fungus is known to multiply more severely and is known to cause several symptoms.

What is Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush is a condition of the oral cavity characterized by forming a creamy white layer in the inner cheeks, tongue, and throat. The fungus Candida albicans is a common inhabitant of the oral cavity, throat, and vagina. It does not cause any problems for most people. However, in people with weaker immunity levels, the multiplication of the fungus Candida albicans is more rapid and hence causes symptoms. It causes minor symptoms and can be cured by proper treatments in most cases. In very few cases, unmanaged candidiasis can result in more severe complications.

When Candida albicans affect the mouth and throat, it is called oropharyngeal candidiasis. When Candida albicans affect the esophagus (food pipe that connects the oral cavity and stomach), the condition is called esophageal candidiasis. Oral thrush is more commonly seen in patients infected by HIV.

What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Oral Thrush?

The signs and symptoms of oral thrush or candidiasis are almost the same among infants and adults. The most common signs and symptoms seen in patients with oral candidiasis are as follows,

  • Creamy white lesions are seen on the roof of the mouth, inner layers of the cheek, tongue, tonsils, and throat.

  • Bleeding on scraping the white lesions is also evident.

  • A cottony feeling in the mouth.

  • Loss of taste as the taste buds are covered by the layers of accumulated Candida albicans.

  • Raised white creamy lesions.

  • Pain on swallowing or inability to swallow.

  • Cracked red corners of the mouth.

Who Is at the Risk of Getting Oral Thrush?

Though fungus Candida albicans is a common inhabitant of the oral cavity, not everyone is affected by oral thrush. People with compromised immunity are affected by oral thrush.

  • Immunity is known to be compromised in infants below one year of age.

  • Immunity is also known to be compromised in older adults who wear dentures.

  • Cancer patients.

  • People affected by HIV are known to develop oral thrush due to compromised immunity.

  • People on long-term antibiotics, corticosteroids.

  • Inhaled corticosteroids in asthma patients may cause oral thrush.

  • Unmanaged diabetes.

  • Uncontrolled smoking habit.

  • Intake of drugs that causes dry mouth.

How to Diagnose Oral Thrush?

The diagnosis of oral thrush depends upon the site of involvement. The underlying cause of oral thrush should also be diagnosed for proper management.

  • Oral examination of the lesions by the general physician or dentist.

  • Slight scraping of the white lesion is done. Oral candidiasis lesions are known to have mild bleeding on scraping.

  • Sending the scraped lesion to a laboratory to be viewed under a microscope.

  • Endoscopy is done in case of candidiasis of the throat.

  • Specific blood tests are required to determine the underlying cause of oral thrush.

How to Treat Oral Thrush?

The oral thrush treatment depends upon the causes and severity of the oral thrush. If oral thrush is caused due to any drug like corticosteroids, the drug is withdrawn from the patient for a few days until complete recovery. In most cases, an antifungal drug is prescribed. Antifungal drugs include,

These antifungal medications can be prescribed to be applied in the lesions or given to swish in the mouth and then swallow.

  • Fluconazole is prescribed in more severe conditions or cases when the candidal infection is spread to the esophagus. They are given intraorally, or they can be given intravenously.

What Are the Preventive Measures for Avoiding Oral Thrush?

The following steps can prevent oral thrush,

  • Practice Good Oral Hygiene:

Practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing. Replace your old brush with a new one after recovery, and never share your toothbrush with others.

  • Disinfect Dentures:

Denture wearers have oral thrush due to poor hygiene and under maintenance of dentures. Disinfect and rinse your dentures every day. Always make sure to remove your dentures at night before sleep.

  • Gargling With Disinfectant Solutions:

Make sure to use good disinfectant solutions to gargle your mouth regularly.

  • Have a Balanced Diet:

Poor food habits are the reason for reduced immunity, leading to oral thrush. Therefore, maintaining a balanced diet with food rich in vitamins and minerals is crucial.

  • Quit Smoking:

Smoking habits lead to various oral and general healthcare problems, and hence, it is mandatory to quit smoking to lead a healthy and long life. Oral thrush or oral candidiasis is more commonly seen among chronic smokers. Therefore, try reducing the frequency of smoking and slowly quitting smoking habits will help reduce the risk of oral thrush.

Home Remedies for Oral Thrush

Saltwater Gargling:

  • Saltwater gargling can help with oral thrush as salt has antiseptic and soothing properties.

  • Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water.

  • Swish the solution in the mouth for a few minutes, and do not swallow.

  • Spit the solution in a few minutes.

Baking Soda:

  • Mix half a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water.

  • Swish in the mouth and spit it after a few minutes.

Apple Cider Vinegar:

  • Apple cider vinegar can be used as a home remedy for oral thrush.

  • Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.

  • Swish the solution in the mouth for a few minutes and spit the mixture out.


As oral thrush is known to be contagious, proper preventive measures should be taken to prevent the spread of infection. Accurate diagnosis of the cause of oral thrush and effective treatment can help speedy recovery from oral thrush.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush is a fungal infection that develops in the mouth. It is otherwise known as oral candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, or thrush.


What Is the Etiology of Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush mainly occurs due to the fungus Candida albicans. However, it can also be due to Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, Candida krusei. Usually, Candida exists in various body parts and causes no issues to healthy individuals. However, when the individual’s immune system weakens or due to certain medications, the fungus grows out of control and causes the infection.


What Is the Differential Diagnosis for Oral Thrush?

The following conditions may also mimic oral thrush-
- Mucositis.
- Denture stomatitis.
- Erythema migrans.
- Thermal burns.
- Erythroplakia.
- Anemia.


What Is the Treatment for Oral Thrush?

Antifungal medications will be prescribed in drops, gel, or lozenges to treat oral thrush. The commonly used drugs include antifungal medications like Clotrimazole, Nystatin, Fluconazole, Itraconazole, and Amphotericin B.


How to Diagnose Oral Thrush?

The doctor can diagnose oral thrush by proper clinical examination and history of specific symptoms like white spots or plaques, unpleasant taste, difficulty eating, etc. The doctor may also scrape the tissue from the inside of the mouth for analysis. This is called a swab culture sent to the laboratory for testing. They may also perform endoscopy and receive tissue samples for analysis when there is an infection in the throat.


Can Oral Thrush Be an STD?

Oral thrush is due to a naturally occurring fungus, and it is not contagious. As such, it cannot be transmitted sexually, but certain sexual practices can trigger the overgrowth of the fungus. They are instead linked to underlying immune disorders.


Can We Brush Our Tongue if We Have Oral Thrush?

The yeast will form a white film on the tongue, and practicing good oral hygiene is essential in treating oral thrush. It will reduce the recovery time and prevent its return. If the bacteria on the tongue are not removed, they can create a film over the tongue, cover the taste buds, and result in a bland taste.


How Long Does It Take for Oral Thrush to Heal?

Once the treatment is begun, oral thrush may heal within weeks. When the oral thrush recurs without reason, the person must be evaluated for any underlying medical condition. Recurrence is common in infants.


Is Oral Thrush Painful and What Does It Look Like?

Oral thrush appears as a white raised lesion that can rapidly become red and irritated. It can cause pain in the mouth and bleed when scrapped. It can also cause redness and soreness of the tongue.


What Are the Associated Symptoms With Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush may result in loss of taste and difficulty swallowing when it involves the tongue, throat, etc. Other symptoms of esophageal thrush include burning or itching in the throat or back of the mouth.


Why Does My Oral Thrush Not Heal?

Oral thrush may be challenging to treat if you have a weakened immune system due to certain conditions like diabetes, cancer or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections, etc. So the treatment should aim not only to stop the fungus from spreading but also to determine the underlying cause.


Will Oral Thrush Cause Flu-Like Symptoms?

Candidal infection may cause a person to experience new or worsening symptoms after receiving treatment called candida die-off. This may be due to temporary inflammation in the body and can result in symptoms such as fever, stomach pain, etc.


Does Oral Thrush Need Treatment?

Oral thrush needs medical treatment, and if left untreated, it can lead to more severe candidal infections. With treatment, uncomplicated infection usually resolves within two weeks. Otherwise, it might prolong up to eight weeks and more.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Sameera Ashiqa. S
Dr. Sameera Ashiqa. S



oral thrush
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