When Good Bacteria Grow Out of Control
No matter how you look at it, the human body is amazing. It consists of a complex web of systems that work together to carry out daily tasks and keep you healthy — all the way down to a cellular level. We even have thousands of beneficial bacteria working on our side, helping to strengthen our immune systems or play a role in digestion. In fact, scientists estimate that the human body plays host to over 10,000 microbial species!
Although they play essential roles in many of our bodily processes, too much of a good thing can also be a problem. One of the many roles our immune system plays is keeping populations of good bacteria in check. Oral thrush, also called oral candida, is an example of an instance where good bacteria have grown out of control and begun causing problems. If this is your first time hearing this term, don’t worry; you’re not the only one! We’ve put together a guide to help you learn more about oral thrush and how to cure it.
1. What is oral thrush?
Oral thrush is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, which is a type of yeast. It’s naturally found in several parts of your body, including your mouth. It plays a role in healthy digestion and helps your immune system function at its best. This makes it very good to have around, but it can cause an infection when it grows out of control. When it overgrows in your mouth, the resulting infection is called oral thrush. To put it simply, oral thrush is a type of yeast infection.
2. What are the symptoms?
Oral thrush can cause multiple symptoms, the most notable of which is the appearance of the infected area of your mouth. You will likely notice creamy white, slightly raised bumps on your tongue or the skin of your inner cheeks. These bumps can also appear on your gums, the roof of your mouth, and your tonsils. They’re often described as looking a lot like cottage cheese, so they’re pretty distinct! The skin around them will likely be red, irritated, and sore, and the bumps themselves may bleed if you rub or scrape them.
All of this can make eating and swallowing unpleasant or even painful. If you have dentures, your gums will likely be sore and may appear red and irritated. You may also experience a loss of taste or a cottony feeling in your mouth, and the skin at the corners of your mouth may even begin cracking. If you’re not sure whether or not your symptoms line up with oral thrush, it’s always best to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bentz to determine the cause of your symptoms.
3. What are the causes?
The population of this fungus is normally kept in check by your immune system, but there are multiple factors that could increase your likelihood of getting oral thrush. Anything that weakens your immune system presents a risk factor for the condition. This includes medical conditions, like autoimmune diseases, cancer, and diabetes that isn’t well controlled, as well as medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation. Similarly, medications, such as prednisone, antibiotics, inhaled corticosteroids, and prescriptions that protect organ donor recipients from rejection, can play a role in causing candida. Your age can make you more vulnerable as well since young infants and older adults tend to have reduced immunity. People who suffer from chronic dry mouth or who wear dentures are also more vulnerable to oral thrush.
While you can’t change many of these factors, there are still steps you can take to prevent oral thrush, especially if you know you’re more vulnerable to it. Commit to a healthy diet, stay on top of treating any existing medical conditions, and ask your doctor about taking probiotics after completing a round of antibiotics. If you have a corticosteroid inhaler, brush your teeth or rinse out your mouth after taking it. You should also stick to a thorough oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing once a day, and using mouthwash by following the directions on the label. If you have dentures, don’t forget to gently brush your gums, tongue, and dentures once a day to prevent bacteria from building up on them. Thankfully, these changes are easy to slip into your daily routine; it’s just a matter of getting into the habit!
4. How can nutrition impact oral thrush?
Eating a balanced diet with plenty of lean proteins, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains is important for your oral and overall health. It gives your body, including your immune system, the nutrients and energy it needs to function at its best! This doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite sweet treats, but you should make sure your diet contains a healthy balance of essential vitamins and minerals. If you have an active case of oral thrush, you may want to temporarily lower the amount of sugars and simple carbohydrates you eat because the fungus thrives on them. This means cutting back on candy, sugary drinks, and carbohydrate-rich snacks like potato chips.
5. Do home remedies like oil pulling work?
Oil pulling is a home remedy that consists of swishing a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes every day. Coconut oil has well-known antifungal properties, and there are plenty of firsthand accounts discussing its effectiveness against oral thrush. That said, there aren’t many studies on whether or not oil pulling really helps treat oral thrush, so we can’t say that it does with any certainty. While oil pulling and other home remedies like clove oil might help treat the condition or relieve your symptoms, you should always use them as a supplement to a prescribed antifungal treatment.
Get rid of your oral thrush and restore your body’s balance.
If you suspect that you have oral thrush, schedule an appointment with Dr. Bentz right away. Everyone is different and treatment plans for the condition can vary greatly, so visiting Dr. Bentz is the best way to treat it. He’ll be able to examine your mouth and provide you with specialized care based on your individual case of oral thrush as well as your medical history. This specialized care will get your oral health back on track as soon as possible! If you’re interested in trying home remedies, you can discuss your options with Dr. Bentz during your appointment.
It’s fascinating just how amazing our bodies are at regulating the balance of tiny organisms in our bodies, keeping us healthy and functioning at our best. Occasionally, however, that balance gets off-kilter and needs a little help to even out again. Thankfully, oral thrush is easy for your dentist to treat, restoring the balance in your mouth and helping you feel great again! If you suspect that you have oral thrush, call our office right away to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bentz.