Thrush is a fungal infection that affects infants and toddlers, normally, but can also affect older adults and those with weakened immune systems. Thrush is caused by the candida fungus—yeast.
As discussed in my “The Bacterial War in your Mouth” article there are good and bad bacteria. Candida is bad bacteria, but is present in small amounts in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin. This fungus is usually prevented from flourishing by the good bacteria in the mouth. If this delicate balance is disrupted, the fungus grows and causes an infection. Certain medications, illnesses, or even stress can affect the bacterial balance.
Medications include: corticosteroids, antibiotics, and birth control pills
Illnesses or physical conditions include: uncontrolled diabetes, HIV, cancer, dry mouth, and the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy.
Other mitigating factors include smoking, the wearing of ill-fitting dentures, and babies who pass the infection on to their mothers through breast feeding.
The infection usually is sudden in onset, but can become chronic very quickly. If an infection is present you will see creamy white, slightly raised lesions usually on the tongue or inside of the cheeks. These lesions may also appear on the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils, and the back of the throat. These lesions look like cottage cheese and can be painful and bleed slightly if aggravated during brushing.
If not treated, the infection may spread to the esophagus resulting in difficulty swallowing, a feeling that food is stuck in your throat, and fever, if the infection spreads to other places from the esophagus. Thrush has been known to affect the liver, lungs and skin.
Treatment & Prevention
Usual methods of treatment include the administration of antifungal medications which can be prescribed by your dentist or family physician.
One natural remedy that has been known to work (although it may not work for everyone) involves eating plain “active culture” yogurt or a plain yogurt/banana/honey “shake” and holding it against the roof of your mouth for a few moments before swallowing. This needs to be done several times a day in conjunction with the taking of acidophilus pills – and antifungal agent that occurs naturally in the body.
Preventing infection is much easier than the treatment:
- good oral hygiene – through a complete brushing and flossing regimen
- avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes and sprays as they affect the bacterial balance in the mouth
- regular dental check-ups
- limit intake of products with sugar or yeast
- quit smoking