Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by excess growth of Candida albicans. Thrush causes painful sores inside the mouth. It most often occurs in infants and toddlers, elderly adults or people with weakened immune systems. Antibiotics may also cause thrush. In most people, medical treatment is unnecessary, but natural remedies may help relieve symptoms.
Thrush causes small, creamy white sores on the inside lining of the cheeks and on the tongue. In more extreme cases, the sores extend down the throat and make eating painful. The sores may bleed when they are rubbed or scraped. The sores appear suddenly but may remain for several weeks.
A healthy body contains bacteria and fungi that perform a number of functions, such as aiding in digestion and keeping harmful bacteria in check. Sometimes, however, this natural balance is disrupted, allowing for an overgrowth of harmful organisms. Conditions such as a weakened immune system caused by disease (infection with human immunodeficiency virus, for example) or treatments (such as chemotherapy for cancer) or the use of antibiotics upset the balance of organisms in the body and permit overgrowth of Candida. Candida infection may pass from a mother to her infant during birth if the mother has a yeast infection and delivers vaginally.
Treatment depends on the age of the patient and the extent of the infection. Antifungal medications are used to treat infants, the elderly or adults with a weakened immune system. Nursing mothers who have an infant with thrush should use antifungal cream on their breasts. Healthy children and adults generally do not require medication, but home remedies may be recommended to relieve symptoms.
Good oral hygiene is paramount for controlling thrush. A thin cotton swab may be used to wipe your tongue, but it may cause the sores to bleed. Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss once daily. Be sure to replace your toothbrush frequently. Avoid using antibacterial mouthwashes because they may further disrupt the natural microorganism balance. Use nursing pads if you are breastfeeding, but be sure to use pads without a plastic barrier since the plastic may promote Candida growth.
Natural Mouth Rinses
Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon salt in one cup of warm water) will help draw out the infection and allow the sores to heal. Other rinses to ease symptoms include a solution of warm water, cider vinegar and a pinch of salt or four drops of tea tree oil in a half glass of warm water. Another remedy consists of 1/2 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil. Allow the oil to melt in your mouth, swish for 15 to 20 minutes, then discard and rinse your mouth with plain water. Do not swallow any of these rinses.
Eat live-culture yogurt that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus or bifidobacterium, or take acidophilus capsules to restore your body's natural balance. Eat garlic for its antifungal effect and onions to help heal mouth sores.