What Is Thrush of the Mouth?

iCreative Commons photo by A. V. Riette

Thrush of the mouth, more commonly called oral thrush, is an overgrowth of the Candida Albicans fungus, a yeast-like organism that naturally lives in people's intestines, skins and mouths. These organisms typically occur in very small amounts, and are balanced out by the good bacteria in our bodies. When this normal balance is upset, the Candida is allowed to multiply rapidly and can result in oral thrush. Learn the causes, symptoms and treatments of thrush of the mouth.


The common symptoms of oral thrush include the development of white, raised spots on the tongue, inner cheeks, tonsils, gums, throat or roof of the mouth. These lesions often look like cottage cheese, and will bleed slightly when they are brushed or scraped. In severe cases, the lesions spread into the esophagus, which causes difficulty in swallowing and fever. People with weakened immune systems might have thrush of the mouth spread into other parts of the body, such as the skin, liver or lungs.


Certain medications and illnesses can upset the balance of microorganisms in the body, resulting in a case of oral thrush. Medications that can trigger Candida overgrowth include antibiotics, birth control pills and corticosteroids. Illnesses that weaken the immune system can also stimulate the growth of thrush in the mouth. Some of these medical conditions include HIV, AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), uncontrolled diabetes, sickle cell anemia and Crohn's disease. Oral thrush is sometimes seen in denture wearers and infants who suck on a pacifier.


A doctor or a dentist typically diagnoses oral thrush by examining the patient's mouth. If he spots any of the distinctive white legions, he will lightly scape the sores to examine the area underneath. A tissue sample is usually taken and examined under a microscope. If the doctor thinks the thrush has spread into the esophagus, he might take a throat culture, which requires lightly scraping the back of the throat with a sterile cotton swab.


Thrush of the mouth is typically treated with anti-fungal medications. The prescribed medicine is generally taken for 10 to 14 days, and is available in tablets, liquids or lozenges. If another medical problem caused the outbreak of oral thrush, then that health condition must also be treated. Denture wearers should get better fitting dentures. Diabetics might need to have their medication adjusted. Those suffering from HIV or AIDS might have to continue anti-fungal drug treatment.


Thrush of the mouth can often be prevented by practicing healthy oral hygiene. Individuals who are prone to oral thrush should brush their teeth three times daily and floss their teeth at least once. They shouldn't use any type of mouthwashes or oral sprays because these products can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in the mouth. Thrush sufferers should limit their intake of sugary and yeasty foods.