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How to Get Rid of Oral Thrush: Treatment and Home Remedies

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oral thrush on tongue symptoms
Do you have oral thrush?

If you're wondering about oral thrush treatment options, you're in the right place. There are various possible ways to get rid of oral thrush, either with medicine prescribed by a doctor or with one of many home remedies. But how do you know which one to try first?

If you've noticed you have some oral thrush symptoms then it's good to address it straight away. Oral thrush is a condition of the mouth that involves an overgrowth of yeast fungus. Some people get severe symptoms and others have it mildly and then find it disappears. The good news is that it is treatable, and no matter why you have it, there's likely something you can do to get rid of it or at least ease the symptoms from home.

In this article, we'll talk all about mouth thrush, what causes it, how to treat it at home and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. We hope this information gives you peace of mind if you have this condition and helps you get rid of it once and for all.

What is oral thrush?

In short, oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, is an accumulation of yeast fungus in your mouth. The fungus that causes it is called Candida albicans. The Candida fungus is naturally occurring. It is a harmless organism in your mouth, but the problem arises when it grows too much.

Anyone can develop this condition, but babies and older adults are more likely to be susceptible, due to reduced immunity. People with suppressed immune systems or certain health conditions are also more likely to develop oral thrush symptoms.

Ask a dentist: Is oral thrush harmful?

Oral thrush is rarely a problem for children and adults. However, it can be more serious for individuals who have decreased immunity, such as those suffering from cancer or HIV/AIDs. Some medications can lower the body's immune response as well. However, if someone suffers from oral thrush frequently, then he or she has an underlying disease or condition that is lowering their immunity, and it must be investigated immediately.

-Dr. Fanar Swaida

Oral thrush symptoms

Common symptoms of oral thrush include the following:

  • Creamy white spots in your mouth, especially on your tongue, and inner cheeks, resembling cottage cheese
  • Larger clumps of spots that turn yellow or grey
  • Small lesions under the white spots which may bleed slightly
  • Redness and soreness that can cause difficulty swallowing or eating
  • Redness or cracked skin at the corners of your mouth
  • Cotton-like sensation in your mouth
  • Loss of taste
  • Irritation under dentures

Even if you don't experience any visible symptoms, general discomfort while eating and swallowing can be a sign of oral thrush. It's also a symptom of oral thrush in babies – they might refuse to feed and drool more than usual.

If you have a weakened immune system, you might also experience lesions that spread down to your oesophagus. This can result in pain when swallowing and the feeling of having food caught in your throat. If you have these symptoms of thrush, it's important not to ignore them, and to seek medical advice as soon as you can.

Some of these symptoms are also symptoms of herpes on the tongue or in the mouth. So, we always advise speaking with a doctor to make sure you are treating the right condition.

What causes oral thrush?

oral yeast infection
Oral thrush is an overgrowth of yeast

This condition develops when your immune system is unable to maintain a healthy balance between Candida fungus and other microbes. In this instance, the Candida fungus grows and causes an infection.

Oral thrush in babies and toddlers is quite common for this reason; they don't yet have a fully developed immune system.

There are several factors besides weakened immune systems that can increase your risk of having this condition. Take a look at some other oral thrush causes:

  • Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes causes an increase in sugar levels in your mouth.  This leads to an increase in local inflammation and an increase in the Candida yeast fungus that causes it.
  • Vaginal yeast infections: These can be passed on to babies in-utero or during birth, and can transfer to the mouth where there is physical contact.
  • Medications: Some medications may reduce the body’s immunity or disturb your body's natural balance of microorganisms.
  • Dry mouth: Dry mouth can lead to excess bacteria in the mouth, as decreased salivary flow is unable to provide a protective and preventive effect.
  • Dentures: Especially if they are not cleaned properly or don't fit correctly.
  • Smoking: This contributes to many oral health problems, including yeast infections.

How can you prevent it?

Thankfully, even if you are a person more prone to a mouth thrush infection, there are preventative measures that you can take. Some of these include:

  • Proper oral hygiene: Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily. Your dentist may also recommend a mouthwash to prevent fungal growth inside the oral cavity.
  • Visit your dentist: Your dentist will tell you how often you should be seen, normal frequencies are from 1 to 2 times per year.
  • Diet low in sugar: Avoiding foods with added sugar can help cut down on Candida growth.
  • Address dry mouth: There plenty of things you can do to treat dry mouth, including some simple lifestyle changes.
  • Mouth taping: If breathing with your mouth open is causing it to dry out, taping your mouth at night could help.
  • Proper health care: If you have a condition that weakens your immune system, make sure you are receiving proper treatment for it. This will help reduce your risk of developing associated conditions.
  • Tongue scraping: Cleaning your tongue regularly helps to remove unwanted bacteria and fungus. Find the best tongue scraper for you in our separate guide.

Oral thrush treatment

Treating oral thrush usually doesn't require a visit to your GP. You can get over-the-counter oral thrush treatments, or you can try one of the home remedies mentioned below to help ease the symptoms.

oral thrush in babies
Oral thrush in babies should be treated by a doctor

This said, you should visit your GP if:

  • Your baby under 4 months old has signs of oral thrush
  • You have been using a gel or other treatment for 1 week and there is no sign of improvement
  • It's painful or difficult for you to swallow
  • You're worried about recurrent oral thrush

They may prescribe an antifungal medicine in tablet or capsule form.

Assuming none of these apply to you, both over-the-counter treatments and natural home remedies can be effective at addressing the symptoms and causes of oral thrush. Keep reading to find out what your options are.

Oral thrush treatment over the counter

If you think you may have oral candidiasis, a pharmacist should be able to check your symptoms and recommend an oral thrush treatment over the counter. These treatments usually come in the form of gels or drops.

Daktarin oral thrush gel contains miconazole which kills the fungi that cause thrush. It can also help with soothing any soreness caused by the condition. It has an orangey taste and is suitable for anyone over four months of age. If you wear dentures, you can use the gel to scrub them and stop them from becoming infected.

Nystatin oral thrush drops work in a similar way, and can also be used to cleanse dentures.

Both medicines should be kept in the mouth for as long as possible after application, and application should continue for two days after symptoms have cleared up. Your pharmacist will advise you on exactly how to use the medicine they give you.

Natural home remedies for oral thrush

If you prefer to take a natural approach, there are many oral thrush home treatment options to try. These all work in different ways, and with varying degrees of scientific backing, but can be effective at relieving mild oral thrush symptoms especially. You may have some of these products in your cupboard or fridge already; others you might need to buy online, but we've included links to the less common products to make life easier.

Apple cider vinegar

apple cider vinegar for oral thrush treatment
Rinse with antifungal apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is known to have antifungal properties and is a popular natural remedy for thrush. To make a cider vinegar rinse you can:

Baking soda

This is one of the easiest ways to treat oral thrush at home, with a kitchen staple. Baking soda has been shown to inhibit the growth of yeast. To try this remedy, simply:

  • Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in 250ml warm water
  • Swish around your mouth
  • Spit out
  • Repeat two or three times a day

Saltwater

Salt has natural antiseptic properties, making it great for dealing with many oral health problems you may have. To use salt water to relieve symptoms of oral thrush:

  • Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 250ml of warm water
  • Swish and gargle the solution for about 20 seconds
  • Spit it out
  • Do this two or three times a day

Tea tree oil

tea tree oil for oral thrush
Tea tree oil is a home remedy for oral thrush

Tea tree oil is used for its natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to combat the Candida fungus and prevent it from coming back again. To use tea tree oil:

  • Mix 2 teaspoons tea tree oil with 2 teaspoons of water
  • Swish the solution in your mouth for at least 30 seconds
  • Spit it out

Hydrogen peroxide

This household staple has antiseptic benefits and is commonly used to treat a variety of oral problems including mouth ulcers. To gargle with hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash:

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is used in an Ayurvedic practise called oil pulling. With antifungal properties that will help get rid of the Candida yeast fungus from your mouth, it is possible to use coconut oil for oral thrush treatment. Here's how:

  • Place 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth (it will melt quickly)
  • Swish it around your mouth for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Spit it out

If you'd like to learn more about this ancient practice and its potential benefits, you can read our oil pulling article.

Anti-yeast supplements in liquid form

home remedy for yeast infection
Bring your yeast levels back to normal

Anti-yeast supplements like this one combine natural yeast-fighting ingredients to help. This particular product receives great reviews on Amazon, with one customer saying:

“Bought for my mother who suffers from candida and gets a very sore tongue, after a few days of taking these it has cleared up and she’s no longer in pain.”

-Clairey, Amazon reviewer

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is full of probiotics that encourage the production of healthy bacteria in your mouth. The presence of more healthy bacteria helps with oral thrush treatment and brings your Candida level down to normal. To use yoghurt as a treatment:

  • Place 1 teaspoon of plain yoghurt in your mouth
  • Leave it there for 5 minutes, then swallow

Lemon juice

Lemons have lots of antifungal properties and their acidity can help eliminate oral Candida yeast fungus. To make a lemon drink:

  • Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into 250ml of water
  • Add honey (optional) and drink

Turmeric

This vibrant yellow wonder spice has anti-inflammatory abilities that can be useful in treating oral thrush as well. You can try making ‘golden milk' to drink:

  • Mix 1/2 teaspoon turmeric paste with a dash of black pepper in 250ml water or milk
  • Heat the mixture in a saucepan until warm
  • Swish it around as you drink it

Oregano oil

Oregano oil has antifungal and antimicrobial properties for to target the causes of oral thrush. To use it:

  • Add 3 to 6 drops of oregano oil to 250ml of water
  • Swish it around in your mouth as you drink it

You can also buy this oregano oil mouthwash, which has various health benefits, including targeting dry mouth and bad breath. The bottle contains 60 doses and you need to dilute it in water before use.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps to increase the production of stomach acids and enhances your immunity, stopping the overgrowth of fungus your mouth. The easiest way to up your Vitamin C intake is to take vitamin C capsules.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a household remedy known for its antifungal and soothing properties. You can simply take some gel from an aloe vera plant and apply it to your tongue and the inside of your cheeks once or twice a day. If you don't have a plant at home, you can buy Aloe Vera juice online.

Garlic

Garlic contains allicin which is a powerful antifungal antiviral and antibiotic. To fight it with garlic, you will need to chew on a raw garlic glove once or twice a day. This is not a recommended treatment if you plan on going on any first dates! Also be aware that raw garlic can burn your mouth, so it's a good idea to start with a small piece and see how you get on.

That was a lot of home remedies! Have a look at the following table for a summary of some of the most common:

The remedy Why it works Where to find it
Apple cider vinegar Antifungal properties Check your cupboard or buy on Amazon
Baking soda Prevents the growth of yeast Check your cupboard
Saltwater Antiseptic properties Check your cupboard
Hydrogen peroxide Antiseptic properties Check your bathroom cabinet buy on Amazon
Tea tree oil Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties Check prices on Amazon
Coconut oil Antifungal properties Check prices on Amazon
Anti-yeast supplements Fights the growth of yeast Check prices on Amazon

You can also watch the video below of Dr. Nemeth going through some home remedies for oral thrush, and then what to do if those don't work:

Candida is also known as an oral yeast infection or oral thrush. This condition is not uncommon. It results in white spots on your tongue. You may also have painful red spots on your tongue. #Candidiasis is most common in infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. #Oralthrush is also very common in those with diabetes, HIV, or those with dentures or asthma inhalers. To treat Candida at home you should: 1. Stay away from sugary and starchy foods 2. Use a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide (3%) 3. Rinse your mouth with warm water and salt 4. Make sure to keep your dentures clean 5. Replace your toothbrush frequently 6. Use baking soda instead of toothpaste 7. Visit our office to get a prescription for Nystatin or Fluconazole (These treatments almost always work) If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to treat your #candida please visit our website, https://www.drnemeth.com We are happy to help you. Joseph R. Nemeth DDS & Associates 29829 Telegraph Road # 111 Southfield, MI 48034 (248) 357-3100 We DO NOT accept Medicare or Medicaid at our office. If you are a new patient, we require that a $25 deposit be made prior to your appointment in order to reserve your time. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drjosephnemeth/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/drjosephnemeth Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drnemethdds/ The information contained in the multimedia content (“Video Content”) has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. Joseph R. Nemeth, DDS & Associates does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the Video Content. Joseph R. Nemeth, DDS & Associates does not warrant the performance, effectiveness or applicability of any sites listed or linked to in any Video Content. The Video Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site. Joseph R. Nemeth, DDS & Associates hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the Video Content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.

Treatments for oral thrush in babies

We've gone over the best home remedies for thrush in adults, but what if your baby has oral thrush?

You'll find that some of the same natural remedies for adults are also suitable for children, toddlers and babies. These include applying a diluted cider vinegar application to the area and introducing yoghurt into your baby's diet, as found by this study because the lactobacillus in yoghurt can help restore a healthy bacteria balance in your baby's mouth.

When it comes to your baby, however, the best thing to do is to seek professional medical advice. A pharmacist or doctor will be able to verify that your baby does indeed have oral candidiasis, and will suggest the most appropriate treatment, whether it's a home remedy or an over-the-counter oral thrush medication.

Conclusion

how do you get oral thrush
Good oral hygiene is the best prevention

If you have this condition, there's no need to panic. As you can see, there are plenty of natural home remedies for oral thrush treatment, as well as various medicines. We do recommend that you see a doctor if you think you or your child have a yeast infection, as it could be caused by an underlying health condition.

Chances are, no matter why you have thrush, there are changes to your lifestyle you can make or remedies you can use, to make the symptoms go away. It might be as simple as making time to practice good oral hygiene.

FAQs

How can you cure oral thrush fast?

If you're wondering how to get rid of thrush quickly, the fastest way to cure oral thrush is to go to your doctor so they can prescribe you a fast-acting anti-fungal medicine. If you want to cure it at home, or using natural remedies, you can try any of or a combination of the remedies mentioned above. However you should always consult with your doctor before starting any treatment and if your symptoms don't go away, you should continue to seek medical help.

What does oral thrush look like?

Look at some oral thrush pictures, and you'll see white, cream or yellow-coloured patches on the tongue and cheeks which look a bit like cottage cheese. Oral thrush on the tongue can spread. Eventually it can cover the whole surface, making the tongue look white or yellowish.

Is oral thrush contagious?

Be honest, what you really want to know is if you can kiss someone and either get or give oral thrush. The answer is: not necessarily. That's because yeast is present in everyone's mouth, so in order to develop thrush, you have to have an oral environment that is thrush-friendly. That being said, if you have a yeast infection or you know someone else who does, it's best to put the kissing on hold until the problem has been resolved.

Additionally, in some cases, an infant who has oral thrush can spread the yeast to their mother's nipples by breastfeeding and vice versa.

How long does oral thrush last without treatment?

If you have mild oral thrush then it may disappear without any treatment, but it can also get a lot worse, so we don't recommend leaving it untreated. You can try one of the home remedies listed above. After one week, if the symptoms remain unchanged, you should see a pharmacist or doctor.

How can you prevent oral thrush?

The best way to prevent oral thrush is very simple. You can start by moderating the sugar in your diet and practising proper oral hygiene (brushing and flossing daily). You should also make sure to visit the dentist once or twice a year.

How to Get Rid of Oral Thrush: Treatment and Home Remedies
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Contributors:
Dr. Fanar Swaida is a passionate and highly experienced dentist in Mississauga Ontario Canada. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry, Dr. Swaida continued his formal education through multiple courses and mini residencies in a variety of dental specialties. Dr. Swaida tries to be available for his patients even during his off time and his number one priority is to make all of his patients feel comfortable and safe when they come to Rockwest dental Clinic Mississauga.
Natalie used to work as a Community Health Worker and Health Insurance Navigator. She continues to follow her passion for connecting people with the healthcare they need by writing informative content about dentistry and medicine.
Amanda specialises in writing informative content about dentistry. She has been a regular contributor to Dentaly.org since 2017, and collaborates with dozens of dentists to keep this content accurate and up-to-date.
Sources

Patient: Oral Thrush. Consulted 10th June 2020.

NICE: Nystatin. Consulted 10th June 2020.

Scielo, Brazilian Oral Research: Effect of sodium bicarbonate on Candida albicans adherence to thermally activated acrylic resin. Consulted 10th June 2020.