- Risk Factors
- Signs & Symptoms
- Home Remedies
What is thrush?
Thrush (oropharyngeal candidiasis) is a medical condition in which a yeast-shaped fungus called Candida albicans (the older and less often used name for Candida is Monilia) overgrows in the mouth and throat. C. albicans is normally present in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin of most healthy people. The immune system and the body's normal bacteria usually keep Candida in balance. When this balance is interrupted, it can result in an overgrowth of the Candida fungus, causing thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth or throat (esophageal candidiasis).
Thrush infection (oral yeast infection) is not the same as a vaginal yeast infection (also called moniliasis). However, the Candida fungus also causes diaper rash, but diaper rash occurs on a child's rear end, genitals, and inner thighs, while oral thrush occurs in the mouth and throat. Adults may get candidal infections in areas of overlapping skin, such as underneath breasts or in skin folds like creases in skin due to fatty tissue.
What causes thrush?
An overgrowth of the Candida species of fungus in the mouth or throat is what causes an oral yeast infection. This overgrowth may be triggered to occur when the person experiences changes such as:
- New medications
- Changes in the immune system
Thrush in infants and newborns is relatively common and is only a concern if it causes poor feeding or is associated with weight loss or other symptoms of systemic illness. Consult a pediatrician if thrush in an infant lasts more than a couple of weeks.
What are risk factors for thrush?
Healthy adults generally do not get thrush without having some risk factors. Patients with weakened immune systems are most at risk for getting fungal infections such as thrush.
Risk factors associated with thrush include the following:
What are signs and symptoms of thrush?
Thrush is characterized by a white coating or white patches on the tongue, mouth, inner cheeks, and back of the throat. The tissue under the white patches is often red, raw, and sore. The lesions can be painful and even bleed when scraped. Oral thrush often looks like cottage cheese or milk curds.
Some general symptoms and signs of thrush are as follows:
- Characteristic white patches
- Redness under the white patches
- White tongue
- Cracking at the outer edges of the lips (cheilosis)
- Dry mouth
- The feeling of food stuck in the throat or a sore throat
- Soreness in teeth
- Strange or unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
Oral thrush can also lead to a condition called burning mouth syndrome, which can have symptoms of a painful burning sensation, mouth dryness, soreness, tingling or numbness throughout the mouth and tongue, and sometimes an abnormal bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.
In severe cases of thrush, the esophagus, which leads down to the stomach, may also be involved. This will cause pain with swallowing. If someone has a weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, chemotherapy, etc.), the Candida fungus can spread to other parts of the body and cause a systemic infection. If a person has signs or symptoms of thrush and develops a fever, shaking or chills, or difficulty swallowing, contact a doctor immediately.
Is oral thrush contagious?
In general, thrush (or candidiasis) is not contagious. However, a breast-feeding infant with thrush may transmit it to the mother's breast by contact.
Technically, oral thrush could be transmitted through kissing or oral sex, though this is uncommon. Thrush is an opportunistic infection, and its development depends on the strength of your immune system.
What types of doctors diagnose and treat oral thrush?
Healthcare professionals that diagnose and treat oral thrust include the following:
- A primary care provider (PCP) such as:
- a family practitioner,
- internist, or
- child's pediatrician may diagnose and treat oral thrush.
- Oral thrush may also be treated by a dentist.
- Severe infections usually require consultation with:
- An immunologist
- An infectious-disease specialist
How do physicians diagnose thrush?
Candidiasis is clinically diagnosed by a physician or dentist when characteristic-looking white patches are found in the mouth or throat.
To confirm the diagnosis, or if there is a question about whether the white patches are caused by the Candida fungus, scraping may be done. The doctor or dentist can scrape off a small amount of the white matter from the mouth or throat and look at it under a microscope and view the characteristic yeast-shaped fungi.
Thrush located farther down the throat or in the esophagus is usually found by doing a procedure called an endoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor passes a small camera through the back of the throat into the esophagus and into the stomach to observe the tissue and take samples. If the white lesions are found, they may be biopsied or scraped to confirm the diagnosis of thrush. This procedure is usually performed by a gastroenterologist.
What is the best treatment for thrush?
Treatment of thrush depends on the cause and severity of the infection.
Infants, toddlers, and children with thrush often do not require treatment.
- In children who have thrush for more than a few weeks, a child's pediatrician may prescribe antifungal nystatin (Mycostatin, Nilstat, Nystex) drops.
Antifungal medications may be used to treat thrush. If an adult patient is diagnosed with a mild case of thrush, the doctor may prescribe
- an antifungal mouthwash (nystatin) or lozenges (clotrimazole [Mycelex]) for short-term use.
- Miconazole buccal (Oravig) is an antifungal medicine that consists of a tablet placed in the upper gum region and dissolved in the mouth to get rid of thrush.
For more severe cases of thrush or if someone has other reasons for a weakened immune system, he or she may need stronger systemic antifungal medicines, such as fluconazole (Diflucan) or itraconazole (Sporanox).
- After Salmonella Cases Double in a Week, Cantaloupe Recall Expanded
- Soccer 'Heading' Tied to Declines in Brain Function
- Smoking Tobacco Plus Weed Greatly Raises Odds for Emphysema
- COVID Vaccines Curbed Pandemic-Linked Surge in Preemie Births
- Could a 'Brain Coach' Help Folks at Higher Risk for Alzheimer's?
- More Health News »
Are there home remedies for thrush?
Home remedies for oral candidiasis are aimed at decreasing risk factors for thrush as well as preventing overgrowth of Candida yeast.
- Brush the teeth with a soft toothbrush.
- Rinse the mouth with a diluted 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
- Rinse the mouth with warm saltwater.
- Avoid mouthwash as it can alter the normal flora of the mouth.
- Keep dentures clean and see a dentist if they do not fit correctly.
- Eat unsweetened yogurt while taking antibiotics.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements may help maintain a healthy balance of Candida.
Home remedies that may reduce the discomfort of thrush include:
- drinking cold liquids, or eating frozen or ice treats;
- eating soft, easy-to-swallow foods; and
- drinking from a straw if the patches are painful.
Other over-the-counter medications and natural treatments include:
- Gentian violet (1%) is an over-the-counter natural treatment that sometimes works as a home remedy for thrush. It is a dye that kills bacteria and fungi, and it is available without a prescription. Talk to a doctor before using gentian violet.
- The grapefruit seed extract is sometimes used by nursing mothers who have developed thrush of the nipples. It can be applied topically (on the skin) to the affected area or taken orally.
- Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties that may help regulate Candida in the body. Mix 1 tablespoon into 8 oz. water and drink daily.
- Baking soda may also help kill the yeast that causes the fungal infection and maintain healthy pH levels in the mouth. Mix 1-2 tablespoons baking soda with water until it forms a paste. Apply the paste with a cotton ball onto the tongue and inner cheeks. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water. Repeat three times a day for several days. Alternately, mix ½ teaspoon baking soda into a glass of water and use it as a mouth rinse twice daily.
- Raw virgin coconut oil has antifungal properties. Nursing mothers sometimes use it on their nipples and the baby’s mouth to prevent the spread of thrush.
- Methylene blue oral is an antiseptic that is reported to help relieve oral candidiasis. Consult a doctor before using this or any supplement.
What is the prognosis of thrush?
The prognosis of candidiasis and how long it will last depends on the severity of the infection and the status of the immune system of the patient.
Mild cases of thrush caused by some of the reversible risk factors are generally easily treated, and the prognosis is good.
- Once you have started treatment for oral thrush, symptoms generally go away in about two weeks.
- In some cases, thrush will last for weeks even with treatment.
- Recurrent thrush can happen if thrush is not properly treated in the first place.
Thrush in infants and children is rarely serious or life-threatening and often goes away on its own without any need for medical treatment.
- If a child's thrush does not improve within two weeks, consult the child's pediatrician.
Patients with weakened immune systems are at risk for severe and life-threatening complications. These patients can become critically ill or die from severe Candida infections. Candida can spread throughout the body to other organs and can cause severe dysfunction.
- Systemic antifungal treatment in addition to long-term hospitalization may be necessary.
Is it possible to prevent thrush?
Thrush can be easily prevented in healthy adults by modifying risk factors that contribute to Candida fungus overgrowth.
Risk factor modifications for the prevention of candidiasis include the following:
- Brush and floss teeth and gums regularly, and maintain proper oral hygiene.
- See a dentist regularly.
- Make sure dentures are clean, properly maintained, and fit well.
- Keep diabetes under control.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet low in sugar and yeast.
- Limit the use of antibiotics. Only use as prescribed by a physician.
- Chlorhexidine (Peridex, Hibiclens) mouthwash may be recommended to prevent thrush in people who take immunosuppressant medications.
To prevent thrush in babies or nursing infants, keep pacifiers and bottle nipples clean and sterilized. Nursing mothers should discuss the use of any over-the-counter or prescribed medications with their doctor before breastfeeding as some medications may increase the risk of causing thrush.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Kumar, Mudra. "Thrush." Medscape.com. Jan. 17, 2019. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/969147-overview>.
Pammi, Mohan. "Treatment of Candida Infection in Neonates." UpToDate.com. February 2020. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-candida-infection-in-neonates?source=search_result&search=thrush+newborn&selectedTitle=1~150>.
Pappas, Peter G., et al. "Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Candidiasis: 2016 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America." CID 62 Feb. 15, 2016: e1-e50.
Pfaller, M.A., et al. "Candida krusei, a Multidrug-Resistant Opportunistic Fungal Pathogen: Geographic and Temporal Trends from the ARTEMIS DISK Antifungal Surveillance Program, 2001 to 2005." J Clin Microbiol 46.2 Feb. 2008: 515-521. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2238087/>.
Sobel, Jack D. "Patient education: Vaginal yeast infection (Beyond the Basics)." UpToDate.com. Feb. 2020. <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/vaginal-yeast-infection-beyond-the-basics>.
Tonn, Elverne M., ed. "Dental Health and Thrush." WebMD.com. <https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-thrush>.
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus." Dec. 17, 2019. <https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/thrush/index.html>.
Top Thrush Related Articles
FeverAlthough a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Birth Control OptionsBirth control is available in a variety of methods and types. The method of birth control varies from person to person, and their preferences to either become pregnant or not. Examples of barrier methods include barrier methods (sponge, spermicides, condoms), hormonal methods (pill, patch), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy), natural methods, and the morning-after pill. Side effects and risks of each birth control option should be reviewed before using any birth control method.
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Dental Health QuizTake the Dental Health Quiz to test your IQ of oral hygiene, cavities, and common tongue and gum diseases. This quiz covers healthy mouths and teeth from brushing to flossing and everything in between check-ups!
DenturesDentures, removable replacements for missing teeth, come in two types: partial and complete dentures. Dental implants and bridges are suitable alternatives to dentures. Though it usually takes a while to get used to eating and speaking with new dentures, denture adhesives can improve the stability of the denture and provide a sense of security for the denture wearer.
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and non-prescription drugs and certain medical conditions. Symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips, a dry feeling in the throat, a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, and a dry, red, raw tongue.
StressStress is a normal part of life, but chronic or severe stress can be harmful to your health. Learn what happens in your body when you are stressed and how you can manage your response.
Tongue ProblemsThere are a variety of diseases and conditions that can cause tongue problems, discoloration, and soreness. Though most tongue problems are not serious. Conditions such as leukoplakia, oral thrush, and oral lichen planus may cause a white tongue while Kawasaki syndrome, scarlet fever, and geographic tongue may cause the tongue to appear red. A black hairy tongue may be caused by overgrown papillae on the tongue. Canker sores, smoking, and trauma may cause soreness of the tongue.
Mouth Problems: TMJ, Canker Sores, Painful Gums and MoreSores, painful gums, bad breath -- what's going on in your mouth? Find out with our slideshow of the most common mouth problems. Learn about canker sores, cold sores, oral thrush, TMJ, and oral cancer. See what treatments for bad breath and other dental problems are available from your dentist.
Yeast Infection vs. Diaper Rash in Infants, Toddlers, and ChildrenDiaper rash in infants, babies, toddlers, and children is caused by Candida, the most common type of fungus. Signs and symptoms of diaper rash includes red, elevated skin that may be visible under and in the creases of the skin, groin, or anus. Yeast diaper rash is not painful. Treatments for diaper rash include antibiotic creams, lotions, natural home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, and oral antibiotics. Yeast infections in infants, babies, toddlers, and children can cause diaper rash and thrush. Signs and symptoms of thrush include thick, white lacy patches on top of a red base that can form on the tongue, palate, or elsewhere inside the palate. Treatment for yeast infections caused by Candida fungi are similar to the treatments for diaper rash. If Candida gets into the bloodstream of an individual they may get sick with or without a fever. If the Candida infection spreads throughout the body up to 45% of people may die. Even with common mouth thrush can cause critical illness and may be more resistant to normal treatment.
Yeast Infections (Thrush in Babies) PictureThrush is a yeast infection that causes white patches in the mouth and on the tongue. See a picture of Yeast Infection (Thrush) and learn more about the health topic.