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Oral fungus causes common mouth infection

If you want to avoid or control a common infection called oral thrush, you've got one more reason to visit your dentist, especially if you have diabetes, wear dentures or have a problem with your immune system.

Also called candidiasis, the fungal infection causes painful white spots on the tongue or inner cheeks. The lesions may bleed slightly when scraped or when you brush your teeth. Sometimes oral thrush spreads to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils or the back of the throat.

It's common among denture wearers and most often occurs in people who are very young, elderly, debilitated by disease, or who have immune system disorders. People who have dry mouth syndrome are also more susceptible to candidiasis. Candida may also flourish after antibiotic treatment, which can decrease normal bacteria in the mouth.

For most people, control focuses on preventing the conditions that caused the outbreak. Good oral hygiene is essential. Teeth should be brushed and flossed as often as your dentist recommends. Dentures should be removed and cleaned before bedtime.

If you're a healthy adult with oral thrush, you may be able to control the infection by eating unsweetened yogurt or taking acidophilus capsules or liquid. Acidophilus is available in natural food stores and many drugstores. Some brands need to be refrigerated to maintain their potency. Yogurt and acidophilus don't destroy the fungus, but they can help restore the normal bacterial flora in your body. If this isn't effective, your doctor or dentist may prescribe an antifungal medication.

The following measures may help reduce your risk of developing oral thrush or other Candida infections:

  • Try using yogurt or acidophilus capsules when you take antibiotics.
  • If you smoke, ask your doctor about the best ways to quit.
  • See your dentist regularly — at least every six to 12 months — especially if you have diabetes or wear dentures. Brush and floss your teeth as often as your dentist recommends.
  • Try limiting the amount of sugar and yeast-containing foods you eat, including bread, beer and wine. These may encourage the growth of Candida.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

09/11/06

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