What is Oral Thrush?

n short, it’s a nasty fungal infection of the mouth. And by nasty, we don’t mean it can’t be treated – we mean it looks and feels gross.

The fungus

Candida Albicans accounts for more than 50% of oral candidiasis, and it’s the main pathogen – the infecting organism - involved in oral thrush. This fungi is often part of the intestinal gut. So often, in fact, that about 70% of the population carries it in their intestinal flora. Though this figure may seem high, most of the time this type of candida is harmless, since it’s kept in check by the rest of the bacterial flora. Aside from the gut, candida albicans is also present in the mouth. About 50% of the world’s population carries it and, again, it’s not usually dangerous. The real problem comes when this organism grows to disproportionate numbers – a process known as candida overgrowth. This may be caused by a variety of factors, from a course of antibiotics to an imbalanced diet to bad oral hygiene. Several diseases also cause an increase in the population of candida albicans, such as AIDS, cancer, vaginal yeast infections and diabetes mellitus. Regardless of the cause, the PH balance in your organism gets affected, thus reducing the positive bacteria in your mouth and gut, and increasing the bad ones – namely, a string of candida albicans.

The symptoms

Nasty-looking white patches are commonly associated with thrush, though they may be present in other diseases, too. These patches won’t normally hurt, and they can be taken away with a spatula or scraped away with your fingers. If you do that, you’ll notice that the tissue beneath is swollen and may bleed, so it’s better to just leave them alone. They’ll go away with treatment, anyway. Another common symptom is soreness of the mouth and difficulty swallowing, especially if the infection has spread to your throat. If it goes beyond that, you’re likely to experience fever and sickness, especially if your immune system is weakened.

The causes

As we’ve already mentioned, most people normally have candida in their mouths anyway. It only becomes infectious when it grows out of proportion – a process called candida overgrowth. In healthy adults, there are many causes for this harmful growth:
  • Smoking: since cigarette smoke disturbs the natural balance of oral bacteria, it may lead to candida overgrowth;
  • Dentures: if you’re not taking proper care of your dentures, you may develop thrush. You should clean them daily and remove them at night;
  • Antibacterial mouthwash: if used excessively, it will affect the healthy bacteria as well, thus encouraging candida to grow;
  • Taking antibiotics: as we’ve already mentioned, prolonged use of antibiotics disrupts the natural bacterial flora. This may lead to oral thrush;
  • Stress: long periods of stress may weaken your immune system, thus preventing the healthy bacteria to keep candida albicans in check.
While all these factors are associated with oral thrush, this condition is relatively infrequent in healthy adults. If you do get it, consult your doctor – left untreated, it may lead to further, more complicated infections. Patients suffering from immune-affecting disorders, such as AIDS and cancer, are also more likely to develop oral thrush, as are people suffering from diabetes


Oral thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. While it’s not common among healthy adults, it’s often associated with immune-affecting diseases such as AIDS or diabetes. Other risk factors are smoking, alcohol, poor diet, and stress. If you have any of the common thrush symptoms, it’s best to consult your doctor immediately – the sooner you start treating it, the easiest you’ll get rid of it. You can also find additional forms oral thrush treatments on our resource center.

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