By Erica Laceria on Feb 3, 2020 @ 12:45 PM
You look at your little one and notice cracked skin around their mouth and white spots on their lips and tongue. It's more common than you think, however many people don't know what it is — until they have it. Known as oral thrush, it's a mouth infection that's caused by yeast —specifically, the candida fungus. It’s an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth and on the tongue. The conditions can affect anyone, but it occurs most often in:
- Babies and toddlers
- Older adults
- People whose immune systems are weakened
Small amounts of candida fungus are in everyone — in the mouth, digestive tract and skin. The amounts are usually kept at bay by other bacteria and microorganisms in the body. But sometimes they get disrupted by illnesses (like uncontrolled diabetes, HIV, cancer or pregnancy), stress or medications (such as antibiotics or birth control pills). When the candida fungus gets out of control, you get thrush.
Other people with an increased risk of thrush are smokers and people who wear ill-fitting dentures. Babies can also pass it to mothers during breastfeeding.
How do you know if you have thrush? A common sign is white, raised lesions in your mouth (such as a white tongue). The lesions can be painful. In severe cases, thrush may spread to your esophagus, causing pain or difficulty swallowing and possibly a fever. It can also spread to other parts of the body, like the skin, lungs and liver. This is more common in people with HIV, cancer or other illnesses that weaken the immune system.
Your dentist can diagnose the condition by looking at the lesions. Thrush in the esophagus can be tested with a culture of the throat, X-ray or endoscopy.
Now the more important question: how to treat your baby's thrush? Anti-fungal medications, taken for 10 to 14 days, are an effective treatment. These medications can come in the form of tablets, liquids or lozenges. Your dentist might refer you to a doctor to treat any other underlying conditions too.
Thrush can be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene. Be sure to brush your teeth two times a day and floss at least once a day. Keep up with dentist visits (especially if you have diabetes or dentures), and limit your sugar and yeast intake by limiting your consumption of beer, bread and wine.