February 3, 2010

Oral Thrush

When dentists speak of fungus infections, they are most often talking about oral thrush, which is the most common type. In technical terms, oral thrush is called oral candidiasis. This refers to the name of the fungus (candida albicans) that gathers in the lining of the mouth. In large enough quantities, this causes a dental fungus infection.

The Prime Candidates for Oral Thrush

For most people, large enough quantities are never reached and infection never occurs. However, those with compromised immune systems are at risk for this type of infection as are persons in poor health, and those at either end of the age spectrum.

People with HIV and/or AIDS, as well as those in forms of treatment (such as chemotherapy) that undermine the immune system are at risk for oral thrush. Diabetics, too, are vulnerable, due to the high sugar content of their saliva, which feeds the fungus.

People who take antibiotics in large doses or for prolonged periods are prone to oral thrush as well. The antibiotics work against the healthy bacteria that normally limit the spread of the fungus. Lastly, many of those who wear dentures get oral thrush at some point.

Oral thrush in infants is common, though. It is not a cause for alarm so long as it does not persist past two weeks.

Symptoms and Treatments of Oral Thrush

The typical symptoms of oral thrush are red or whitish abrasions on the inner cheeks or tongue, which may bleed when scratched. Lesions may also be present on the roof of the mouth, the gums, the tonsils, or the throat. If the infection attacks the tongue, a burning pain may result. If it attacks the throat, swallowing may become difficult.

Oral thrush is most often easy to diagnose via oral exam. In some cases, the dentist may culture the abrasions or inspect scrapings from the mouth under a microscope.

Mild dental fungus infections may be treatable with acidophilus or yogurt. More severe ones may call for antifungal drugs. Those with very weak immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS patients, may need to use stronger drugs to knock out the fungus.

Prevention of Dental Fungus Infections

To keep your risk for a dental fungus infection low, maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day to minimize plaque build-up, and floss to clean plaque and bits of food out of the areas between the teeth that are hard to reach with a brush.

For diabetics, it is very important to maintain desirable blood glucose levels. Likewise, those who wear dentures can lower their risk of a dental fungus infection by removing and cleaning them each day.

For more about oral thrush, talk with your dentist.