symptoms of Oral thrush

What is Oral thrush?

Oral thrush also called oral candidiasis is a strange white rash normally appearing on the mucous membranes of the mouth. Such rash is caused by yeast or fungus infection. The particular fungus called candidas fungus responsible for causing oral thrush is identified as Candida albicans. This fungus exists in many parts of the body including the digestive system but do not pose any major problem as long as the immune system of the body is strong enough to prevent its abnormal growth.

Candida albicans is a harmful bacteria, the growth of which is prevented by the immune system of the body with good bacteria. However, when the harmful bacteria grows beyond control, oral thrush develops.

Oral thrush is a mild and common condition which does not pose any major health problem.

Types of Oral thrush        

Different types of oral thrush have been identified to occur.  The major types are primary and secondary oral thrush. Primary oral thrush is confined to fungal infection of the mouth and perioral tissues. Secondary oral thrush is spreading of the infection to other parts of the body also in addition to the mouth. The infection can appear on the roof of the mouth, gums, and tonsils or on the back portion of the throat.

Both types generally affect babies and toddlers. Diaper rash in infants are also common form of infection caused by Candida albicans. Even though the immune system of the body is capable of preventing the growth of this harmful bacteria, since the immune system of children are in developing stage they are more vulnerable to such infections.

Adults who have weakened immune system are also affected by the fungus. The fungus may also spread to the skin, lungs and liver in chronic cases. People who take steroids, diabetics and those who wear dentures are more vulnerable to this infection.

Major causes of oral thrush infection are dry mouth, diabetes remaining uncontrolled, smoking, HIV or AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome), cancer and hormonal changes occurring in women during pregnancy. Taking antibiotics for longer duration also causes oral thrush.

Other types of oral thrush

  • Angular cheilitis in which the corners or angles of the mouth are infected
  • Denture related stomatitis in which the infection affects the parts beneath the teeth generally in elders.
  • Median Rhomboid Glossitis in which the central portion of the dorsal tongue is infected.
  • Linear gingival erythema where the gums are inflamed. This type of infection is found in HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infected persons and is called HIV-gingivitis.
  • Vaginal yeast infection in women is also due to the same bacteria causing oral thrush. Breast feeding mothers may be affected as they get infected from their babies while feeding.

Symptoms of Oral thrush

  • White colored creamy deposits in the mouth
  • Pain with or without bleeding while scrapping the tongue or brushing the teeth.
  • Feeling uncomfortable or pain while swallowing liquid or solid food coupled with redness or soreness.
  • Getting the feeling as if the food is stuck either in the throat or in the chest.
  • Fever, when the infection spreads beyond the esophagus. (Esophagus is a long muscular tube beginning from the back of the mouth/ throat and extending up to the stomach)
  • Loss of taste due to the bumps

Breast feeding mothers get the infection through feeding the babies. Hence it is the nipple and area around the nipple that get cracked or become shiny besides deep pain in the breast indicating contact of the infection.

Diagnosis

Oral thrush is diagnosed by a simple physical examination of the tongue and mouth by a doctor to look out for the characteristic white bumps. While infection by the yeast or fungus is easily identified by the doctor, if more confirmation is required a biopsy of the slightly scrapped bump is undertaken. In some cases throat culture and endoscopy may also be carried out.

Treatment of Oral thrush

Treatment of oral thrush involves mere prevention techniques in order to prevent the growth and spreading of the bacteria Candida albicans.  Normally it takes about two weeks for totally remove the infection. Some of the treatment methods and prevention of spreading of the infection are:

  • Application of pure and virgin coconut oil in the affected area. Caprylic acid in coconut oil is the ingredient which cures the thrush.
  • Application of diluted baking soda solution or white distilled venegar
  • Brushing the teeth with very soft brushes taking care to avoid scrapping the tongue or mouth walls
  • Changing the tooth brush each time till the infection goes away completely.
  • Avoid using sprays and mouthwash when infection is confirmed or suspected.
  • Rinsing the mouth periodically with salt water.
  • Adults affected by the infection and are diabetics must maintain their blood sugar level in order to prevent spreading of the infection to other parts of the body.
  • Unsweetened yogurt can be consumed to facilitate growth of healthy bacteria which by itself can prevent yeast or fungal infection.
  • For all ages of people adhering to oral hygiene is very important to prevent oral thrush.

Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.