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Oral Thrush Symptoms, Treatments & Advice

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  • What is Oral Thrush?

    Oral thrush is a fungal infection that affects the mouth and throat.

    The infection is caused by a group of yeasts called candida. Oral thrush is sometimes referred to as oropharyngeal candidiasis. The condition will cause small white bumps to form inside the cheeks and on the tongue, which will usually cause the sufferer some level of discomfort.

    Typically, oral thrush is a mild fungal infection that rarely causes complications.

  • Why do I have Oral Thrush?

    A naturally occurring fungus called candida can be found in the mouths and digestive systems of most people. Usually this fungus doesn’t cause any harm unless their numbers multiply. When candida multiplies beyond normal levels it can lead to oral thrush.
    There are a number of things that can trigger this multiplication, including:
    • Taking a prescribed course of antibiotics, especially in high doses or over long periods of time.
    • Using inhaled corticosteroids medication for asthma.
    • Having poor levels of oral hygiene.
    • Being a denture wearer, especially if they are ill-fitting.
    • Smoking
    • Having a dry mouth, either as the result of a medical condition, or as a side-effect of medication.
    • Undergoing chemo or radiotherapy.
  • What are the most common symptoms of Oral Thrush?

    The most common symptoms of oral thrush include:
    • Plaques, which are white patches or bumps in side the mouth. These patches can often be wiped off, leaving behind red areas that are prone to bleeding.
    • A loss of taste in the mouth.
    • An unpleasant taste in the mouth.
    • A burning pain inside the mouth.
    • Redness of the mouth and throat.
    • Cracks appearing at the corners of the mouth.
    • A difficulty in eating and drinking.
  • Do I need to visit my GP?

    It is recommended you visit your GP should you present with the symptoms of oral thrush. If left untreated, the symptoms can persist. In more severe cases, untreated oral thrush can carry the risk of the infection spreading further into the body, which can potentially be serious.

    In most cases, your GP will be able to diagnose oral thrush with a simple visual examination. The doctor may also take a small scraping from one of the infected plaques in the mouth. This can then be sent to a laboratory, where it can be tested for the presence of the candida fungus.

    In some cases, the doctor may recommend a blood test, which will help identify any associated condition, such as nutritional deficiencies or diabetes.

  • Is Oral Thrush contagious?

    Oral thrush is not contagious in the same way a cold or the flu is.

    However, under certain circumstances it can still be passed on. It is possible to contract oral thrush through oral contact with an infected person. Though this will depend on the strength of your immune system and whether there are other risk factors at play. For this reason it is advised to avoid oral contact, such as kissing, until the symptoms have fully resolved.

  • Is Oral Thrush dangerous?

    Oral thrush, in most cases, isn’t dangerous. Though if left untreated it can potentially spread further into the body, which can make the condition more serious.

    However, this usually only happens in severe cases, and for those with weakened immune systems.

  • Will I need to treat Oral Thrush?

    It is recommended to seek treatment for oral thrush as the infection can make the sufferer feel very uncomfortable. If left untreated, the condition will likely persist. Plus, if the infection spreads to other areas of the body it can cause further complications.

  • What treatments are avaliable for Oral Thrush?

    Oral thrush can be successfully treated with topical antifungal medicines. These are typically in the form of a gel of liquid, allowing for direct application to the infected area. Topical medications, such as gels or liquids, will usually need to be used several times daily, for approximately 1-2 weeks.

    Examples of topical oral thrush treatments include:

    • Daktarin Oral Gel

    • Nystatin liquid

    In some cases, oral antifungals may be used, which are usually administered once daily. Examples of oral preparations include:

    • Fluconazole capsules

    • Itraconazole capsules

    When suffering from oral thrush, it can be beneficial to alter your oral care regime at home. This will include:

    • Brushing teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush, as to avoid scraping the plaques.

    • Replacing your toothbrush daily, until the infection has cleared.

    • Avoid using mouthwashes and sprays.

    • Use a saltwater mixture for rinsing your mouth.

  • Do Oral Thrush treatments have side-effects?

    Oral thrush medications don’t often carry side-effects, although some have been known to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and bloating.

  • Can I use Oral Thrush treatment if I am pregnant?

    If you are pregnant, it is recommended you speak to your doctor or pharmacist before attempting treatment.

    Oral thrush is usually safe to treat using topical preparations, such as gels. However, capsules or tablets should be avoided if; you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

  • What can I do to prevent Oral Thrush?

    You can reduce the chances of contracting oral thrush by following these simple routines:

    • Brush teeth at least twice daily, using a toothpaste containing fluoride.
    • Floss daily, especially if you are a denture wearer, or are diabetic.
    • Rinsing your mouth after meals.
    • Having regular dental check-ups.
    • If a denture wearer; remove, clean and soak the dentures every night. Also, ensure your dentures fit properly.
    • Stop smoking.
    • If you use a corticosteroid inhaler, it is important to rinse out your mouth after each use.
    • If taking prescribed antibiotics, add yogurt to your diet for the duration of the course.
    • If suffering from a vaginal yeast infection, ensure it is treated promptly, especially if you’re pregnant.
    • Ensure any underlying condition, such as diabetes, is well controlled.

    If you suffer from, or are receiving treatment for a condition that puts you at a higher risk of developing oral thrush, your doctor can recommend taking a course of prescribed antifungals to help prevent oral thrush from developing.

Authored By:

A photo of  Leanne Sinclair

Leanne Sinclair


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Leanne is a clinical pharmacist with years of experience working in pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of Dr Donald Grant

Dr Donald Grant

MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.med

Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

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