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Thrush: A Common Children’s Oral Health Problem

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and Charlotte Dentistry is supporting through additional educational efforts to its patients and the community.

White coating on tongue baby. Oral thrush.Thrush is best known as a yeast infection caused by candida fungus. This infection appears in many parts of the body including the mouth. In infants, it also causes diaper rash.

Thrush is particularly common in babies and toddlers as their immune system has not yet fully developed.  It also affects older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.

What Causes Thrush?

The candida fungus is normally present in the mouth, skin and digestive track of a healthy body and is kept under control by other bacteria in the body. The delicate balance of bacteria can be disrupted by specific sicknesses, medications and stress.  Antibiotics and steroid medications can upset the balance of bacteria in some individuals.

What Are the Symptoms of Thrush?

Candida fungus normally develops quickly and can persist over long periods of time. Signs of thrush are white creamy raised mouth lesions on the tongue and cheeks. It is not uncommon to be found on the gums, roof of mouth, back of throat or tonsils. The lesions may bleed slightly and become painful if scraped when brushing the teeth.

How Is Thrush Diagnosed?

Dentists can diagnosis thrush during an examination of your child’s mouth. They look for white lesions on the tongue and cheeks. Redness and slight bleeding may occur when brushing and are distinctive of this infection.

Tissue from the lesions can be microscopically examined to confirm a diagnosis of candida fungus. Throat cultures, endoscopy procedures of the esophagus, stomach and intestines as well as x-rays are used to diagnosis thrush.

How Is Thrush Treated?

Anti-fungal medications are prescribed for 10 to 14 days to treat this condition. Your dentist may also encourage you to see a medical doctor as candida infections can be a symptom of other underlying health problems.

How Can Thrush Be Prevented?

Daily brushing and flossing are helpful in preventing thrush. Avoiding mouth sprays and mouthwashes that destroy the natural balance of bacteria is helpful.

Foods containing large amounts of sugar and yeast encourage candida growth. Limiting bread and sugar can be helpful.  To ward off future infections, avoid giving your child antibiotics unnecessarily. Cleaning and sterilizing pacifiers may also help. And some pediatricians advise breastfeeding mothers to let their nipples air dry between feedings to prevent thrush.

If you have specific questions, use the “Ask The Eperxt” feature on our website, and we’ll be happy to answer them for you.

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