Can You Get A Yeast Infection In Your Mouth? | Oral Thrush

woman with white tongue and oral thrush

Can you get a yeast infection in your mouth? WAIT. I know what you’re thinking. But really, is it possible for someone to have an oral yeast infection and if so, how do you “catch” one? Before you freak out, these infections are more common than you might realize. Only because they’re typically referred to as “thrush” in most cases. Oral thrush is completely manageable with the right tools, information, and healthcare providers on your side. If you think you have oral thrush, there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, even though yes, it is a type of yeast infection.

What Is Oral Thrush?

Oral thrush occurs when someone has an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in their mouth and throat. Basically, all of the “oral flora” (natural bacteria that are always in your mouth) become unbalanced. Good or bad, there are more of some than others. They just aren’t balanced out like they’re supposed to be. So, one or two of them start to run rampant.[1]

As with other types of yeast infections on your skin, you can get thrush in your mouth when the risk factors all line up at the same time. Maybe you’ve been sick, you’re taking antibiotics, and you have a denture or retainer that you haven’t been cleaning properly. As a result, you start to see large accumulations of “thrush” bacteria in certain parts of your mouth. People with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing candida infection inside the mouth. It's common to see oral thrush in adults and babies who are breastfeeding.

Oral yeast infections are also called “candidiasis.” Candida refers to yeast/thrush bacteria, so if we say that someone has a candida infection it means there is yeast overgrowth. 

Oral Thrush Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of oral thrush include:

If someone has “denture stomatitis” which is a type of oral yeast infection, the redness is usually in the roof of their mouth, underneath where their “plate” sits. In babies, oral thrush may be most noticeable in the roof of their mouth or on their tongue.

Typically, you can usually notice oral thrush symptoms within a few days of it developing. Without professional care or appropriate treatment, the yeast infection can continue to exist or worsen, making it nearly impossible to eat or drink anything without experiencing pain.[2]

What Causes Oral Thrush?

Regardless of what’s causing your oral thrush infection, one of the best ways to treat yeast overgrowth is with prescription antifungal medicines. You can get a prescription from your doctor or dentist.[3]

If you fit one of the following risk factors, you may be more prone to developing oral yeast infections:

1. Bacterial Imbalance

Oral thrush is caused by too many bacteria. They can be good bacteria or bad bacteria. Usually, a bacterial overgrowth happens because of poor oral hygiene practices or even from being on antibiotics for too long, because it’s killing the natural good bacteria in your mouth.

Treatment

Clean any removable prosthetics, re-vamp your home hygiene routine, and ask your dentist or physician for prescription antifungal medicines.

2. Medication

Antibiotic medication is notorious for causing oral thrush and other types of yeast infections. Since it’s physically “killing off” bad bacteria in your body, it’s taking some of the good ones along with it. The ones that survive start to run rampant or take over where they’re at.

Treatment

Don’t stop taking your medication unless directed to do so by your doctor. The last thing you want to do is encourage drug resistance and recurring oral infections. Consider supplementing with a probiotic while you’re on your antibiotics.

3. Uncontrolled Diabetes 

People with diabetes may be more prone to recurring oral thrush infections than those without stable blood glucose levels. It’s no surprise since we also see that diabetics are more susceptible to other infections, like gum disease.

Treatment

When your blood glucose levels get out of hand, it makes it nearly impossible for your body to ward off other infections. The best thing to do is treat them jointly. Address your oral infection, be it thrush or periodontitis, at the same time you work on stabilizing your blood sugar levels. Joint treatments are the most effective.

4. HIV

Someone with an autoimmune disease or immune deficiency—such as HIV or AIDS—have a higher risk of developing chronic oral yeast infections. In fact, oral thrush may be one of the first warning signs of HIV.

Treatment

In addition to working with your dentist (to get a prescription) be sure to make time to meet with your family physician. You may need to be placed on an immunotherapy or HIV medication to get the virus under control so that you don’t continue developing subsequent infections.

5. Cancer 

When someone is undergoing cancer therapy like radiation or chemotherapy, it makes it more difficult for their body to ward off normal bacteria, which then predisposes them to developing oral thrush. 

Treatment

Talk to your dentist about prescription antifungal medicines or drop to use. Be sure to communicate your concerns with your oncologist.

Is Oral Thrush Contagious?

Is it possible to “catch” thrush because of someone else having a yeast infection? Yes. Yes, it is. Here are just a couple of examples of when you might see it happen.

1. Breastfeeding 

While it's common to see oral thrush in adults, nursing moms and babies are both at risk for yeast and thrush infections. For example, a baby might develop oral thrush and then spread it to their mother during nursing, causing a yeast infection in their breast. Or if the mother has a yeast infection, she could potentially spread it to her baby. It’s extremely important to practice good hygiene before and after nursing, to prevent possible skin infections in the process.[4]

2. Kissing, Sexual Contact

If one person has oral thrush or a vaginal yeast infection (I’m sorry, it was impossible NOT to go there for this conversation) it is indeed possible to spread the yeast/thrush to another person through, ahem, intimate actions. Although it’s really not all that common—because one partner usually knows about it and is taking care of it like they need to—there’s still a risk. So just be smart, have good hygiene, and treat the infection promptly. Deep throat kissing somebody with a severe oral thrush infection doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed to develop oral thrush, but there’s a pretty good chance you will.

Preventing An Oral Yeast Infection 

First and foremost, make sure you’re taking out any removable prosthetics like dentures or orthodontic retainers and cleaning them thoroughly every day. If it’s a denture, don’t sleep in it. At all.

Second, practice good oral hygiene and nursing hygiene. Clean your mouth regularly, brush your teeth twice a day, and floss once a day. For infants, wipe their mouth with a clean, soft washcloth after feedings or at least a few times a day. Be sure you’re throwing out old toothbrushes or disinfecting them whenever you’re sick.

Third, consider taking probiotics, especially if you’re on an antibiotic regimen because of another illness or a weakened immune system. Antibiotics can kill off the normal oral flora in your mouth, allowing other strains of bacteria to run rampant. Oral probiotics can help keep things stable and reduces the risk of developing oral thrush and other health conditions.

Avoid any DIY oral products like homemade hydrogen peroxide rinses and things like that. Otherwise, you could be dealing with oral thrush and black hairy tongue.

Finally, make sure you take all medications as directed by your dentist or family physician. Problems like drug resistance or too many antibiotics can really throw off your mouth, plus make it more difficult to treat future infections. Even if you’re feeling better, take the remaining amount of medication as it’s prescribed.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect that you have oral candidiasis and it hasn’t cleared up within a couple of days or after using OTC products, you need to see a professional. Either a dentist or medical doctor is fine. But I recommend seeing a dentist since they will want to screen for a variety of oral infections and not just thrush. For babies, consider visiting a pediatric dentist or your pediatrician.

Your dentist can easily prescribe an antifungal medication to take. It might be in drop form, a lozenge that dissolves in your mouth, or even a syrup or pill. When you take it as prescribed, you’ll usually start to see an improvement within a couple of days. Why try to tough it out, when a prescription could clear up your oral thrush within a week or two?

Dentists see oral thrush on a frequent basis, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. These oral yeast infections are completely normal and something that happens to people every day. Having a healthcare provider you feel comfortable with will get you the quickest relief. All you have to do is call their office.

On rare occasions, your physician may recommend additional testing. Especially if you suspect underlying health conditions like immunodeficiency, diabetes, or other medical condition in the mouth and throat.

Yes. You Can Get a Yeast Infection in Your Mouth

Oral thrush is just a type of yeast infection. You can “catch” it from being on antibiotics, nursing, or just having a weakened immune system. It can be painful and in certain circumstances, even be spread to other people. If you’re experiencing symptoms of oral thrush, speak with your dentist or family physician within a few days of the onset of symptoms.