Oral thrush is a condition caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in the lining of the mouth, according to Mayo Clinic. It produces, tender, creamy white lesions on the inner cheeks and tongue and can spread to the roof of the mouth or down the throat.
Normal oral bacteria and the immune system normally keep the fungus controlled, notes MedlinePlus. However, in infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, the organism can grow out of control, causing painful swallowing and minor bleeding from the lesions. Other people at risk for thrush include those taking steroids, those with uncontrolled diabetes, those on antibiotics, and those with ill-fitting dentures.
Thrush is treated with antifungal medications, explains WebMD. The medication may be delivered via liquids, tablets or lozenges. Treatment usually lasts 10 to 14 days, though may continue for a longer period of time in immunocompromised individuals. In otherwise healthy people, thrush rarely causes complications, adds MedlinePlus, but in those with weakened immune systems, it can spread throughout the body, causing serious infection.
In addition to treatment with antifungals, warm saltwater rinses can help soothe an inflamed mouth, suggests Mayo Clinic.To make a saltwater rinse, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water. Swish the solution in the mouth, gargle, and spit it out. Repeat several times daily.