Thrush is an infection of the mouth. It usually begins on the tongue and inside of the cheeks, and spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils, and throat.
Thrush is caused by a fungus. The immune system can normally fight off this fungus but the fungus can grow and spread if the immune system is weakened.
Certain situations can weaken the immune system either in the body or locally in the mouth. A weakened immune system increases your risk for thrush. Factors that can weaken your immune system include:
In some cases, you may not have symptoms. In those that have symptoms, thrush may cause:
Thrush can spread beyond the mouth. Complications include infections that spread to the:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, including an inspection of your mouth. Diagnosis can usually be made based on your symptoms. Your doctor may take a sample of cells from the affected area to examine under a microscope.
The goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of bacteria and yeast in the mouth. If any underlying conditions contribute to thrush, they will also be treated.
Antifungal medications are used to treat thrush. Medications come in the form of tablets, rinses, or lozenges that dissolve in the mouth.
If you wear dentures, clean and brush them daily. You also need to clean the inside of your mouth and tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
To help reduce your chance of thrush:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Foundation for Infectious Disease
Canadian Dental Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Adults healthy habits. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-under-40. Accessed December 9, 2013.
Dentures. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/Dentures. Accessed December 9, 2013.
Greenspan D, Greenspan JS. HIV-related oral disease. Lancet. 1996;348(90290:729-733.
Oropharyngeal/esophageal candidiasis (Thrush). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/thrush/index.html. Updated May 6, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2013.
Oral candidiasis in children and adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 1, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2013.
A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the effects of nystatin on the development of oral irritation in patients receiving high-dose intravenous interleukin-2. J Immunother. 2001;24(2):188-192.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.