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Oral thrush (mouth thrush)

Oral thrush is usually harmless. It's common in babies and older people with dentures. It can be easily treated with medicines bought from a pharmacy.

Check if it's oral thrush

Adults

Other symptoms in adults are:

  • cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • not tasting things properly
  • an unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • pain inside the mouth (for example, a sore tongue or sore gums)
  • difficulty eating and drinking

Oral thrush in adults is not contagious.

Babies

Other symptoms in babies are:

  • they do not want to feed
  • nappy rash

Babies can pass oral thrush on through breastfeeding. This can cause nipple thrush in mothers.

If you're not sure it's oral thrush

Look at other causes of a white or sore tongue.

A pharmacist can help with oral thrush

Oral thrush can be easily treated with a mouth gel bought from a pharmacy. Treatment usually lasts at least 7 days.

Ask your pharmacist for advice. Always follow the instructions on the medicine packet.

If you leave oral thrush untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your baby is under 4 months and has signs of oral thrush
  • you do not see any improvement after 1 week of treatment with a mouth gel
  • you have difficulty or pain swallowing

How you can prevent oral thrush

Thrush is an infection caused by a fungus called Candida. Some things can make the fungus grow more than usual.

You might get thrush if you're:

  • taking antibiotics over a long time
  • using asthma inhalers
  • getting cancer treatment like chemotherapy

There are some things you can do to help prevent oral thrush:

Do

  • take care of your teeth: brush twice a day, clean your dentures, and go for regular check-ups even if you have dentures
  • brush your gums and tongue with a soft toothbrush if you do not have any teeth
  • sterilise dummies regularly
  • sterilise bottles after each use
  • rinse your mouth after eating or taking medicine
  • go to regular check-ups if you have a long-term condition like diabetes

Don't

  • do not wear your dentures at night
  • do not keep wearing dentures if they do not fit properly – see your dentist
  • do not smoke

Page last reviewed: 4 July 2017
Next review due: 4 July 2020