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Oral Thrush

Oral Thrush

Alternate Names

  • oral Candida
  • oral moniliasis
  • yeast infection, oral


Oral thrush, or oral Candida, is caused by a fungus or yeast named Candida albicans.

What is going on in the body?

This disease often occurs during or after a course of antibiotics. This is because the antibiotic can reduce the number of bacteria that routinely grow in the mouth. These bacteria normally keep the level of Candida fungi in check. When they are not present, the yeast overgrows.
This fungus can infect people of all ages. However, it is most often seen in newborns and the elderly unless other health problems are present.
Conditions that may contribute to thrush include:
  • antibiotic treatment for any condition
  • viral respiratory infections
  • irritation from dentures or any other dental appliance
  • diabetes
  • mononucleosis, which is a viral infection
  • debilitating diseases
  • HIV
  • conditions being treated with corticosteroid medications
  • cancer
  • other immune deficiency diseases


What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Areas of infection can become more severely infected. They may spread to the throat or esophagus, which can be serious. Being unable to maintain a healthy diet may add to the problem. Oral Candida infection can be an indication of a serious systemic disease.


What can be done to prevent the infection?

Measures to prevent oral Candida infection include:
  • using antibiotics only as directed under the supervision of a health care professional.
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet .
  • seeing a dentist for treatment of any denture soreness or irritations.
  • taking preventive medication. This step would be necessary only for people with long-term debilitating or immune deficiency diseases.


How is the infection diagnosed?

A healthcare professional can diagnose the condition by examining the person. The exam may include gently maneuvering the patches to check for bleeding under the white curd like areas.
If in doubt, scrapings of the areas are sent to a lab for analysis. If the doctor suspects that there is a serious underlying illness present, he or she will need to check for this as well.
Infants should be seen by their healthcare giver immediately if there is any indication of systemic symptoms.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

If properly treated, this disease should completely go away. The condition can recur or more serious problems may develop if prescribed medication is not taken properly.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others, as thrush cannot be passed from one person to another. However, a person with thrush may have an underlying disease, such as HIV, which may be contagious.


What are the treatments for the infection?

There are several types of effective medication. Some are taken orally. Others are used as a mouth rinse, then swallowed. A doctor may also treat affected areas with topical mediations such as gentian violet.
Some of the drugs that can be used include:
  • fluconazole (i.e., Diflucan)
  • clotrimazole (i.e., Mycelex)
  • nystatin (i.e., Mycostatin, Nilstat)
  • ketoconazole (i.e., Nizoral)
  • itraconazole (i.e., Sporanox)
All of these medications must be taken under a doctor's care as prescribed.
Another aspect of treatment involves refitting or adjusting ill-fitting denture or other oral appliances. Dentures and other oral appliances should not be worn at night unless specifically recommended by the dentist.


How is the infection monitored?

Any suspicion of recurrence should be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional.

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