Oral Thrush Isn’t Just for Babies

If you’ve ever seen white spots on your own or your child’s tongue, you may have been initially alarmed. Often these white spots are just a sign of a harmless fungal infection called thrush. Though thrush usually clears up on its own, it can be uncomfortable and even painful, depending on the severity. So, what exactly is thrush, and what should you do if you suspect you or your child has it?

Oral candidiasis, or thrush, is a yeast infection of the mouth caused by a yeast-like fungus called candida. Though it can strike people of any age, thrush is most commonly found in infants (usually around 4 weeks old) and the elderly. It’s believed to be prevalent in these age groups because both groups often have weakened or underdeveloped immune systems. In infants, thrush is caused by the bacteria candida albicans. Though candida albicans is present in the mouths of approximately half the population, it rarely turns into thrush, thanks to regulation by the bacteria in our mouths.

While it is most commonly found in children, thrush is not uncommon in adults, especially in seniors, and can even be found lurking underneath dentures. Common causes of thrush in adults include antibiotic use, chemotherapy, dry mouth and inhaled corticosteroid medication used to control asthma.

It is also common in adults and older children with hypothyroidism, diabetes, HIV and vitamin deficiencies, such as iron and B12 deficiency.

So, what can you do if you think you or your child may have thrush? The first step is to give Dr. George a call. Thrush is easily treated with prescription antifungal medications that you can apply directly to the affected area, either in the form of a gel or a liquid. You may also be prescribed a pill or tablet that you take orally. Treatment generally lasts about seven to 14 days, and has very few side effects, though some patients experience mild nausea, more commonly with the pills.

As for preventing thrush, Dr. George recommends taking excellent care of your teeth and mouth. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss, don’t smoke, keep dentures clean by removing them nightly and soaking them in denture wash, and rinse your mouth out after each dose of inhaled corticosteroid medication.

If you suspect you or a loved one may have thrush, please give Dr. George’s office a call at 724-934-3422.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on September 14th, 2017