The condition known as oral candidiasis, or “thrush” occurs when the normal Candida fungus, or yeast, in the mouth overproduces and is not stopped by the immune system. Symptoms can include a white tongue, white sores, bleeding, or pain when swallowing. Any part of the mouth can be affected. Although the infection is most commonly associated with babies, anyone of any age can suffer from it.
Some instances of thrush are very mild and go away on their own, but more serious cases require treatment. If not properly taken care of, the fungus can spread to other areas of the body. This is especially true for people with weakened or undeveloped immune systems.
Treatment of Thrush
Thrush is usually treated with an anti-fungal medicine. There are a number available, but the more commonly used medications are Clotrimazole, Diflucan and Nystatin. There are several methods of administration. A few remedies can be purchased over the counter, but others require a prescription. The prescribed treatment will depend on the severity and age of the patient.
An infant with an oral yeast infection is usually treated with a topical liquid. The mouth should be rinsed with a medicine dropper of water after a feeding and the medicine swabbed inside the mouth. It is important to coat every surface, and the solution will need to be applied several times a day. Bottles, nipples and pacifiers should be sterilized, and if the mother is nursing, she should use an anti-fungal cream on her breasts to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Any toys that come into contact with the baby’s mouth should also be boiled or treated. Treatment should continue until 48 hours after the symptoms disappear.
Older children and adults may be able to get rid of the infection with lozenges or an anti-fungal mouth rinse. Occasionally, an ingestible form of medicine is prescribed. Some people with recurring thrush or severely compromised immune systems require more aggressive therapy. Amphotericin B is a powerful anti-fungal drug that is only used as a last resort. Side effects from this medication can be serious.
Natural remedies for thrush are also available. Gentian Violet is an antiseptic dye made from the Gentiana family of herbs. It is known for anti-fungal properties, but should not be used on an infant without a doctor’s approval. Other home solutions include swabbing the area with coconut oil, olive oil, sugar-free yogurt, or acidophilus. In the case of an infant, bifidum should be used instead of acidophilus, because the digestive system of a child under a year old is more sensitive. Natural mouth rinses can be made by diluting grapefruit extract, vinegar, salt or baking soda with water and swabbing the mouth or gargling. Onion and garlic both contain anti-fungal properties, and eating them can help get rid of thrush.
After thrush treatment, it is important to take steps to keep the fungus from coming back. Toothbrushes should be replaced when treatment begins and again when symptoms are gone. Along with consistent hand washing, good oral hygiene will help maintain a healthy mouth. In the video below, an experienced naturopath discusses oral thrush, and reviews the causes and treatments of various manifestations of a white tongue.