What kills a fungal infection in the mouth?

Fungal infections in the mouth, also known as oral thrush, are caused by an overgrowth of yeast known as Candida. Candida is found naturally in small amounts in the mouth, digestive tract and skin. However, when conditions are right, the Candida fungus can multiply and cause infection. Oral thrush appears as white or yellow patches in the mouth that can be wiped away, leaving red lesions underneath. The infection may also cause cracked skin at the corners of the mouth. Oral thrush is common in infants and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems. Thankfully, there are several effective natural and medicated ways to kill the fungal infection and restore mouth health.

What causes oral thrush?

An overgrowth of the Candida fungus leads to oral thrush. However, certain factors can trigger fungal overgrowth and infection. Common causes and risk factors include:

– Weakened immune system due to illness or medication like chemotherapy.
– Chronic health conditions like diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
– Medications like corticosteroids and antibiotics.
– Poor oral hygiene.
– Smoking.
– Dry mouth from medications, health conditions or aging.
– Dentures not cleaned properly.
– Infancy due to underdeveloped immune system.

When conditions allow too much growth of Candida fungus, an infection develops leading to characteristic white lesions and redness in the mouth. Prompt treatment helps clear infection and prevent complications.

Signs and symptoms

Oral thrush leads to creamy white lesions in the mouth that can often be wiped away. Signs and symptoms include:

– White patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, tonsils or throat.
– Redness or soreness under the white patches.
– Cracked skin at corners of the mouth.
– Pain or difficulty eating and swallowing.
– Cottony sensation in the mouth.
– Loss of taste.
– Creamy or white-colored coating on the tongue.
– Bad breath.

Symptoms in infants may include fussiness and difficulty feeding. Oral thrush symptoms may be mild at first and progress if untreated. Seeking medical care at the first signs of infection can help prevent worsening of symptoms.

How to diagnose oral thrush

Oral thrush is often diagnosed simply by examination of the characteristic appearance of the mouth lesions. In addition, a doctor may scrape the sores and examine the sample under a microscope to confirm the presence of Candida fungus.

Other tests that may be done to diagnose thrush include:

– Oral swab culture – A cotton swab is rubbed on the affected area to collect a sample that is cultured in a laboratory to confirm Candida overgrowth.

– Saliva culture – This can identify high levels of Candida fungi.

– Blood tests – Blood work can check for conditions like diabetes and nutrient deficiencies that may predispose to oral thrush.

– Endoscopy – A lighted instrument is used to examine the esophagus and stomach to check for spread of Candida infection.

It is important to see a doctor to confirm oral thrush, especially for persistent, severe or recurrent cases. Proper diagnosis guides appropriate treatment.

Natural remedies to treat oral thrush

Several natural antifungal remedies can be used to help treat oral thrush and reduce Candida overgrowth in the mouth:

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains lauric acid and caprylic acid that have anti-Candida effects. Swishing coconut oil in the mouth for 10-20 minutes can help reduce fungal overgrowth.


Garlic has antifungal and antimicrobial properties that may help fight oral thrush. Crushing garlic and applying it inside the mouth may provide relief.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is proven to have antifungal effects. Diluting tea tree oil with coconut oil and swishing the mixture in the mouth can aid oral thrush treatment.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can help kill excess Candida growth when used topically inside the mouth. It should always be diluted before use.

Salt water rinse

Salt has antiseptic and mild antifungal action. Swishing warm salt water around the mouth helps reduce oral thrush.

Baking soda

The alkaline environment created by baking soda may help prevent growth of fungus. Mixing it with water into a paste and applying to lesions can provide relief.


Taking probiotic supplements helps restore healthy bacterial flora to crowd out overgrown Candida fungus. Probiotic yogurt can also help when consumed regularly.

When using natural remedies, be sure to monitor for allergic reactions or sensitivity. Proper hygiene and sterilization of any objects put in the mouth is crucial. See a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.

Medicated treatments

In addition to natural remedies, several medicated antifungal options can help treat oral thrush infections:

Antifungal medications

Prescription antifungal medication like Nystatin suspension, Clotrimazole lozenges, or Fluconazole pills may be used depending on severity of infection. They help reduce fungal overgrowth.

Antifungal mouthwashes

Antifungal mouth rinses containing active ingredients like Cetylpyridinium chloride or enzymes like Lactoferrin provide relief when swished around the mouth.

Denture cleansers

Denture cleaning preparations help disinfect dentures to eliminate fungal overgrowth that may spread infection. Soaking dentures overnight in antiseptic solutions can help.

Angular cheilitis creams

Over-the-counter antifungal creams containing Miconazole or Clotrimazole can be applied to the corners of the mouth to treat angular cheilitis cracks from oral thrush.

Chlorhexidine mouthwash

This antiseptic mouthwash kills bacteria and yeast in the mouth. Rinsing with it can aid oral thrush treatment.

Prescription medication or professional medical irrigation may be required for severe, chronic or recurrent cases of oral thrush. Always finish the full course of prescribed antifungal treatment to prevent relapse of infection. Seek prompt medical advice if symptoms do not improve.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to using medicines, several lifestyle measures can help treat and prevent recurrence of oral thrush:

– Maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing once daily.

– Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake.

– Rinse mouth after using inhaled corticosteroids.

– Remove dentures nightly and clean them adequately before reinserting. Soak in antiseptic solution if advised.

– Manage medical conditions like diabetes that increase risk of oral thrush.

– Boost immunity by reducing stress, eating healthy and getting adequate sleep.

– Limit sugary foods and beverages that may feed yeast overgrowth.

Making dietary and hygiene modifications reduces risk factors for fungal infection and supports treatment efforts. Preventive steps help avoid repeat infections.

When to see a doctor

It is advisable to see a doctor for:

– Severe symptoms like lesions over large areas of the mouth or down the esophagus.

– Oral thrush that persists despite 2 weeks of home treatment.

– Recurring infections more than 3 times in a year.

– Difficulty eating or swallowing.

– Oral thrush in infants or people with weakened immunity.

– Presence of rash, fever or fatigue along with mouth lesions.

– To confirm oral thrush diagnosis if unsure, especially if lesions are atypical.

Seek medical advice to evaluate any underlying condition that predisposes to thrush, for proper diagnosis, to rule out other conditions and to get appropriate prescription antifungal treatment if required.

Complications of untreated oral thrush

Leaving oral thrush untreated may lead to some complications:

– Spread of infection into the esophagus causing dysphagia or down to gastrointestinal tract.

– Dehydration from difficult or painful swallowing and feeding.

– Malnutrition, especially in infants, from reduced feeding.

– Systemic fungal infection in people with very weak immunity.

– Increased risk of Candida sepsis and meningitis in newborns or critically ill.

– Angular cheilitis with mouth corner cracking that becomes infected.

– Recurrence of oral thrush infection.

– Rarely, infection may extend to facial skin, sinuses or lungs.

Seeking prompt treatment at first signs of thrush helps avoid worsening of infection and lowers risk of complications.

Can oral thrush be prevented?

Certain preventive steps may help reduce risk of developing oral thrush:

– Maintain proper oral hygiene by regular tooth brushing and tongue cleaning.

– Avoid sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses. Disinfect dentures.

– Give up smoking to avoid damaging mouth tissues.

– Manage medical conditions like diabetes that increase thrush risk.

– Take antibiotics only when needed and as prescribed.

– Rinse mouth after using inhaled corticosteroids for asthma.

– Boost immunity by eating healthy, reducing stress and getting enough sleep.

– Limit sugary foods that may promote yeast overgrowth.

Practicing good oral care and hygiene helps lower risk of fungal overgrowth. However, oral thrush may still occur despite preventive efforts. Seeking prompt treatment helps clear infection and prevent worsening.


Oral thrush is a common fungal infection caused by overgrowth of Candida yeast in the mouth. Typical symptoms include creamy white lesions and redness that can often be wiped away. Oral thrush is more common among infants and older adults, as well as those with weakened immunity. Thankfully, the infection responds well to a variety of natural antifungal remedies like coconut oil, garlic and tea tree oil. Medicated options like antifungal mouthwashes, pills or creams may also be used for treatment based on severity. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and practicing good hygiene also help lower risk of thrush. While oral thrush may persist despite preventive efforts, seeking prompt treatment helps avoid complications like spread of infection and supports recovery. Maintaining tongue and denture cleanliness and managing any underlying medical conditions also helps prevent recurrence of oral fungal infections.

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