If you stick out your tongue and look in the mirror, you should see somethings that’s slightly pink and red, and covered in tiny nodules. However, if you notice a white coating or bumps on the tongue that look different than how your tongue normally looks, you may need to schedule a visit with our Milwaukie, Oregon dentistry to see Dr. Sue Walker.
It’s not uncommon to develop a minor tongue infection. Bumps may even appear after an injury from a bite or irritation due to eating foods such as a really hot soup or slice of pizza. A canker sore is another common cause of oral discomfort when one develops on or near the tongue. However, if you have large bumps at the back of your tongue and/or a coating of white on your tongue, it may be a sign of Oral Thrush.
Oral thrush looks like creamy white lesions that appear on the inner cheeks or tongue. It can often have an almost “cottage cheese” like appearance, but it can also appear as patches of white in the mouth and red spots on the tongue. Cracks that develop at the corner of the mouth are also another potential sign of thrush. No matter how thrush may appear, the condition can cause significant irritation and a painful burning sensation that leaves many patients unable to engage in many daily routines like eating, brushing or even talking.
The Science Behind Oral Thrush
Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the candida fungus, also common referred to as yeast. Infections of candida are not simply limited to the mouth either; it can develop in other parts of the body as well, causing yeast infections in women and diaper rash in babies. Anyone can develop thrush, though the condition occurs most frequently in infants, toddlers, seniors and those with a compromised immune system.
Candida fungus is actually fairly present and normal in small amounts, and can often be found in the skin, digestive tract and mouths of healthy people. Candida is typically kept under control by other microorganisms and bacteria that thrive in the body. However, stress and certain types of medications and illnesses can alter the delicate balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria, resulting in an overgrowth of candida which results in the development of thrush.
Medications that contribute to the development of thrush include: birth control pills, antibiotics and corticosteroids. Illnesses and medical conditions that exacerbate thrush include hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy; dry mouth; cancer; HIV infection; and uncontrolled diabetes.
Individuals that smoke or who wear ill-fitting dentures also have an increased risk of developing thrush. Additionally, babies can actually pass on thrush to their mothers during breast feeding.
Fortunately, Dr. Walker can easily diagnose thrush during a routine exam at our Milwaukie, Oregon dentistry. Dr. Walker will examine your mouth for the distinctive white lesions on your cheeks, tongue or mouth that are often synonymous with thrush. Gently brushing the lesions away can reveal a tender, inflamed area that may slightly bleed. A microscopic examination of tissue from a lesion can even confirm the diagnosis if any doubt exists.
Treating Oral Thrush
If you suffer from thrush or have an increased risk for the condition, here are a few steps to consider taking for treatment and prevention.
- Antifungal medications. Most thrush treatment plans call for taking antifungal medications for between 10 to 14 days. However, Dr. Walker will determine the best course of action for treating each patient’s case individually.
- Practice quality oral hygiene at home. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily help to prevent a buildup of the harmful bacteria most responsible for the development of thrush.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash once a day. Not only will rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash help to keep your gum and teeth healthy, it will also help eliminate any buildup of the bacteria responsible for thrush.
- Reduce the amount of foods containing sugar and yeast you consume. This includes foods like refined white sugar, wine, beer or bread which encourage candida growth.
- Quit smoking. Smoking contributes to a variety of oral health problems, including thrush.
- Visit Dr. Walker. Regular visits to our Milwaukie, Oregon dentistry will allow our team to spot any signs of oral disease early on while still easily preventable.