Oral thrush


Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a condition characterized by the accumulation of the fungus Candida albicans on the lining of the mouth. While Candida is a normal organism found in the mouth, it can sometimes grow excessively and lead to symptoms. The main sign of oral thrush is the development of white, raised, cottage cheese-like spots on the tongue and inner cheeks. This can cause discomfort, pain, and redness in the mouth.

While anyone can develop oral thrush, it is more commonly observed in infants and older adults due to their reduced immune function. Additionally, individuals with weakened immune systems, certain health conditions, or those taking specific medications are also at a higher risk. For individuals with a healthy immune system, oral thrush is typically a minor issue that resolves within a couple of weeks with appropriate treatment. However, if the immune system is compromised, symptoms may be more severe and challenging to manage.

Healthcare providers typically treat oral thrush with antifungal medication. This medication helps eliminate the overgrowth of Candida and resolves the symptoms. It’s important to note that if you have a healthy immune system, oral thrush is generally a temporary problem that can be effectively managed with treatment.


Children and adults

Initially, you might not even detect any indications of oral thrush. However, common signs and symptoms may occur, and they can include:

  • The tongue appears to have whitish (creamy looking) spots on your tongue, inner cheeks, and occasionally on the tonsils, gums, and roof of your mouth.
  • Lesions that look like cottage cheese and are slightly elevated.
  • Any redness, burning, or pain that is severe enough to make you suffer when swallowing or eating.
  • Minor bleeding when the lesions are scraped or rubbed.
  • Lip and mouth corners that are red and cracked.
  • Experiencing a sensation of cotton in your mouth.
  • Impaired sense of taste
  • Denture stomatitis, which causes redness, irritation, and pain under dentures.

When the condition worsens, often associated with cancer or a compromised immune system due to HIV/AIDS, the sores can extend further into your esophagus, which is the elongated, muscular tube connecting your mouth to your stomach. This is known as Candida esophagitis. If this happens, you can have soreness in your throat, trouble swallowing, or the sensation that food is becoming stuck there.

Infants and breast-feeding mothers

Infants experiencing the identifiable white mouth lesions may also exhibit feeding difficulties or become fussy and irritable. They have the potential to transmit the infection to their mothers while breastfeeding. Consequently, the infection can circulate between the mother’s breasts and the baby’s mouth. Women with candida-infected breasts may encounter the following indications and symptoms:

  • Nipples that are unusually red, sensitive, cracking, or itching
  • Skin that is shiny or flaky around the nipple’s darker, circular region (areola).
  • Strange discomfort while nursing or discomfort in the nipples in between feedings
  • Sharp aches in the breast that go deep

If you or your child notice the appearance of white lesions inside the mouth, it is important to seek medical attention from a doctor or dentist. While thrush is not commonly seen in healthy older children, teenagers, and adults, its occurrence should prompt a visit to the doctor for further evaluation to determine if there is an underlying medical condition or another cause that needs to be addressed.


Your immune system typically works to fend off dangerous invaders like viruses, bacteria, and fungi while preserving a balance between “good” and “bad” germs that typically live in your body. But occasionally, these defenses break down, leading to an increase in candida fungus and the development of an oral thrush infection.

Candida albicans is the most prevalent variety of the candida fungus. Your chance of developing oral thrush might be raised by a number of circumstances, including a compromised immune system.

Risk factors

Some individuals are more susceptible to thrush than others, and the following groups are particularly at risk:

  • Other oral problems. Oral thrush risk can be increased by wearing dentures, particularly upper dentures, or by having ailments that promote dry mouth.
  • Age. Infants younger than one month old, toddlers, and adults aged 65 or over have a higher likelihood of developing oral thrush because their immune systems are often weakened.
  • Weak immune system. Certain medical conditions and treatments have the potential to weaken or suppress the immune system. Examples of these include cancer and its therapies, organ transplantation necessitating immune-suppressing medications, as well as HIV/AIDS.
  • Vaginal yeast. Vaginal yeast infections and oral thrush are both caused by the same type of fungus. It is possible for the infection to be transmitted from a mother to her baby.
  • Medications. Your risk of developing oral thrush can be increased by the use of medications like prednisone, inhaled corticosteroids, or antibiotics, as these drugs can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in your body.
  • Diabetes. The risk of oral thrush can be elevated by wearing dentures, particularly upper dentures, or experiencing dry mouth due to certain conditions.