A tongue showing signs of oral thrush
Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by yeast that appears on the tongue.

How to Get Rid of Oral Thrush

You may find yourself looking in the mirror one day, shocked to find a grayish-white film on your tongue. Scraping the substance off might prove difficult, and you may wonder what is happening inside your mouth. If a puzzling white rash occurs on the tongue, it could be a case of oral thrush. Let’s discover how to get rid of oral thrush.

What is Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush, also called oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by yeast. Yeast is also known as the candida fungus or Candida albicans. This fungus is one of the many microorganisms that normally live in the human mouth. Sometimes, however, the fungus can overgrow and result in oral thrush.

5 Treatments for Oral Thrush

Fortunately, children and healthy adults recover quickly from oral thrush with basic treatments. The following are the most common treatments used for oral thrush.

1. Antifungal Medications

The treatment of choice for oral thrush are antifungal medications. These medications are prescribed as lozenges, tablets, or liquids that are typically swished or gargled before swallowing. Antifungal medications work well against mild to moderate oral thrush infections and usually require 7 to 14 days of treatment to destroy the oral fungus.

2. Baking Soda Rinse

Repeated baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) may help treat mild cases of oral thrush by inhibiting further growth of yeast. A research study performed with baking soda showed that it slowed the growth of Candida albicans and was a viable alternative for treatment or disinfectant. To use a baking soda rinse for oral thrush, simply:

  • Mix a half teaspoon of baking soda into 1 cup of lukewarm water.
  • Dissolve the baking soda thoroughly.
  • Swish the solution around in your mouth.
  • Spit out and rinse with water.

3. Yogurt

Most people are familiar with yogurt as an excellent probiotic. What makes yogurt work well as a probiotic is what also makes it effective against oral thrush. Yogurt contains bacteria cultures that help keep the growth of Candida albicans in check and restore microbial balance in the mouth. A great way to use yogurt as a treatment for oral thrush is to eat it! Because of its soft consistency, yogurt is easy on tender or painful tongues affected by oral thrush. For the best results, consume yogurt twice daily and choose the unsweetened variety.

4. Lemon Juice

Like baking soda, lemon juice has antiseptic properties that help treat an overgrowth of Candida albicans. A small study performed with HIV patients found lemon juice to be effective against oral thrush. Lemon juice is acidic, therefore creating an inhospitable environment for the growth of Candida albicans. Although lemon can be easily eaten or placed directly on oral thrush lesions, direct application may cause further irritation or pain.

To use lemon juice for oral thrush:

  • Squeeze half of one lemon into one cup of lukewarm water.
  • Mix thoroughly and swish.
  • Use it as a rinse. The mixture is consumable, but it can also be utilized as a rinse instead of a drink.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric's vibrant yellow color comes from a compound called curcumin. Known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, curcumin is a potent treatment for minor cases of oral thrush. Curcumin also prevents Candida albicans from adhering to dentures and teeth, helping to both treat and prevent overgrowth. To use turmeric for the treatment of oral thrush:

  • Combine roughly 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric paste with 1 cup of water or milk.
  • Sprinkle with a dash or two of black pepper.
  • Mix thoroughly and heat on the stove until warm.
  • Like the lemon-water mixture, the turmeric mixture is consumable or can also be used as a rinse.
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What Causes Oral Thrush?

Typically, the body's immune system maintains a healthy balance between the good and bad microorganisms in the body. Immune cells combat harmful microbes that try to infect the body while keeping microbial growth within the body in check. In most cases, this system is able to maintain balance and keep harmful microorganisms at bay. When the immune system is weak, microbes like the candida fungus in the mouth can multiply excessively. The fungal infection creates a thick coating on the tongue and inner cheeks, resulting in oral thrush.

Who’s at Risk?

Anyone can develop oral thrush under certain situations, but babies, young children, older individuals and people with compromised immune systems have a higher risk of developing the condition. For example, oral thrush is one of primary infections found in people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These are a few other conditions that may compromise the immune system and cause a case of oral thrush:

  • Diabetes.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Medications.
  • Cancer.
  • Smoking.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Thrush?

A hallmark sign of oral thrush is a white coating on the tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, or inner cheeks. Sometimes, the coating can be seen as far as the tonsils or back of the throat. Other symptoms include:

  • Loss of the sense of taste.
  • Redness throughout the inside of the mouth.
  • A cotton-like feeling inside the mouth.
  • Bleeding when brushing teeth.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Pain when swallowing.
  • Fever, if the fungal infection moves into or beyond the esophagus.

When to See a Doctor

Any signs or symptoms of oral thrush necessitates a visit to the doctor’s office. A doctor may prescribe an antifungal or an over-the-counter remedy and identify whether your immune system is compromised. Without treatment, oral thrush may travel further into the oral cavity and eventually into the esophagus. Therefore, oral thrush symptoms require immediate attention.