Oral thrush - adults 

Introduction 

Thrush

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis describes the symptoms of thrush, a yeast infection, and discusses who is most at risk and how it is treated.

Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015

Types of thrush

Thrush can also affect the vagina, skin and, in men, the head of the penis (glans).

The pages in this section are all about oral thrush in adults, but we also have information on:

Oral thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth, caused by a type of fungus called Candida albicans. 

It causes an unpleasant taste, soreness, a burning sensation on the tongue and difficulty swallowing. Read more about the symptoms of oral thrush.

Oral thrush is not contagious, meaning it cannot be passed to others.

What causes oral thrush?

Candida albicans fungus is naturally found in the mouth in small amounts. Oral thrush develops when these levels increase. This can be the result of taking certain medications (particularly inhaled steroids), poor oral hygiene, smoking, or a weakened immune system.

Your risk of developing oral thrush is also increased if you:

  • are on a course of antibiotics, particularly over a long period or if you are taking high doses
  • wear false teeth (around seven in 10 people who wear dentures will get oral thrush at some stage)
  • have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes (oral thrush is five times more common in people with severe type 1 diabetes than the population at large)
  • use an asthma inhaler to take corticosteroid medication

Learn more in the causes of oral thrush.

Otherwise healthy newborn babies can also be affected as the condition can be passed from mother to baby during labour if the mother's vagina is infected. It can also be passed through breastfeeding. Learn more in oral thrush in babies.

Treating and preventing oral thrush

Oral thrush can usually be successfully treated with antifungal medicines, delivered in the form of gels, tablets, creams or mouth rinses.

You can reduce the chance of getting oral thrush by:

  • brushing your teeth twice a day
  • having regular dental check-ups
  • keeping your dentures clean
  • stopping smoking

Read more about treating oral thrush and preventing oral thrush.




Page last reviewed: 01/08/2012

Next review due: 01/08/2014

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Comments

The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Truthsearcher said on 01 November 2012

This advice completely neglects to mention a main cause of Candidiasis being the overuse of antibiotics? It also neglects to advise patients that this condition can develop into a life threatening situation for the patient IF the condition is not recognised by a Doctor and goes on without treatment, as it has in my case for over 1 year. I know this to be a fact, as it happened to me in 2011 when I was misdiagnosed with a chest infection twice in 6 months and given 6 lots of antibiotics. Despite many visits to the Doctor and a great deal of expensive and unnecessary procedures to rule out other causes of my health problems, Candidiasis has never been mentioned . Infact it has been ignored by the new surgery Doctors that I have changed to. This condition can be relatively easily treated, and yet if left untreated can lead to early death. I am extremely annoyed by my lack of treatment and intend to get the appropriate treatment first thing in the morning. I will be taking along all the relevant information that I have research on the internet in order to inform my Doctor on exactly what treatment I need and expect. I advise others who believe they are suffering from this condition to get treatment straight away, and most importantly, NEVER automatically agree to taking two lots of antibiotics at the same time unless the Doctor can give you a very good reason why you should.

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eviechads said on 08 October 2012

I have recently suffered from oral thrush and still using the oral gel, i have never had this before but suffer regular with vaginal thrush. Im confused and upset has to how i have it.. research it endlessly and thought i maybe vitamin deficant so taking iron and B-12..
I dont have asthma, i look after my teeth and i dont have HIV... when i looked at all the write ups on the subject i was freaked out...

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brigittarndt said on 10 July 2012

I am a 28 yr old female who just got diagnosed with thrush for the second time in 9 months (about the time I have used symbicort for asthma). Both times my first symptom was a dry/horse throat. Quickly followed by frequent hot flashes and metallic/methol /cotton sensation in mouth. Then last, the white tounge. This second time I do not have "plaques" on my tounge or any white. Just on the back of my throat where I can not brush, says doc. I asked a lot of people in my community and only 1 adult had ever had it! Most people had not ever heard of thrush. The first time I got it could be from prednisone for poison oak. Doc didn't tell me about eating yogurt or taking a probiotic suppliments while using steroids/antibiotics!

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blahbleh21 said on 19 June 2012

Corticosteroids

If you use inhaled corticosteroids as part of your asthma treatment, you can help prevent oral thrush by:

rinsing your mouth with water after using your inhaler

developing a good technique when you inhale corticosteroids by using a spacer

A spacer is a small device that looks like a plastic tube. It is attached to your inhaler and can help to get the corticosteroid medicine right into your lungs, minimising the amount of contact that it has with your mouth.

(It's on the prevention page, people).

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blahbleh21 said on 19 June 2012

Corticosteroids

If you use inhaled corticosteroids as part of your asthma treatment, you can help prevent oral thrush by:

rinsing your mouth with water after using your inhaler

developing a good technique when you inhale corticosteroids by using a spacer

A spacer is a small device that looks like a plastic tube. It is attached to your inhaler and can help to get the corticosteroid medicine right into your lungs, minimising the amount of contact that it has with your mouth.

(It's on the prevention page, people).

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n4ncy said on 28 May 2012

I am in agreement with other comments but surprised that this website has been updated to take any criticism into account as yet.
These are very valid points - and I to speak as a person with asthma, using inhalers which are known to cause oral thrush in some people, However, it is pointless to comment if all comments are simply ignored.

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LucyPickles said on 04 December 2011

Like the first commenter, I am also asthmatic, and this article makes no mention of oral thrush being a side-effect of asthma inhalers. I came here looking for up to date information on this ailment, but found ridiculous scaremongering instead.

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jelliottuk said on 22 September 2011

I agree with lady above - this advice is alarmist and misleading. Anyone reading it who has oral thrush is likely immediately to think they are also HIV+ or have developed full blown AIDS.

The advice says: 'Oral thrush can also occur in people with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV and AIDS. About 9 out of 10 people with AIDS have oral thrush, which can often be severe.'

A very irresponsible way of putting it.

Because, of course, to say 9 out of 10 people who have AIDS also have oral thrush does NOT mean that 9 out of 10 people with Oral Thrush will also have AIDS, but people not schooled in statistics could easily understand it in that way and be caused to panic.

Plus the advice slip between referring to HIV and AIDS and AIDS alone, which are very different conditions.

Frightening how ill informed this advice is!

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cadale said on 21 February 2011

I found it totally unhelpful regarding symptons. I have been suffering from what I thought was a 'sore throat'. When it became more and more painful. I consulted my doctor and oral thrush was confirmed. There is nothing in your article which suggests this might be a sympton. I am a 73 year old woman who uses Ventolin and Seretide and always wash my mouth after use I have 'puffed'. I am not H.I.V. positive, do not have Aids nor have I just given birth which is about all the 'symptons' you describe. Not terribly helpful at all.

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Dental health

How to care for your teeth including check-ups, brushing, braces and whitening