Suddenly notice a white, or grayish-white coating on your tongue? Whether your entire tongue appears to be white or only a few patches are, the discoloration is usually harmless. There are a few reasons as to why you may be seeing a white tongue, but with the right steps toward treatment the filmy coating should fade in time.
An infection of the mouth, oral thrush, sometimes called oral candidiasis, is usually linked to a fungal infection that can occur in both adults and children. Developing on the mucous membranes located on the lining of the mouth, the infection is usually harmless for those who maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Oral thrush can appear at any age, but is more likely to occur in those with lower immunities. Specifically, in babies and the elderly along with people who have suppressed immune systems. In some cases, symptoms may not be noticeable in the early stages of the infection. Signs of oral thrush include:
- Creamy white lesions on the tongue, roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils, and inner cheeks
- Redness, burning, or soreness
- Bleeding if the lesions are accidentally scraped
- Redness and cracking along the corners of the mouth
- Loss of taste
- A cotton-like feeling inside the mouth
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
Caused by a fungus, the culprit is usually Candida albicans. A normal organism in your mouth, Candida turns into an infection when it overgrows. Several factors contribute to this fungal overgrowth where an infection then takes hold:
- Weakened or suppressed immune system
- Untreated or ill-maintained diabetes
- Medications that disturb the natural balance of microorganisms in your body such as antibiotics, prednisone, and inhaled corticosteroids
- Dry mouth
- Improper denture care
Women who are nursing are at higher risk of contracting oral thrush from their babies. Check your child for any lesions around or in the mouth and contact your dental professional right away.
Usually harmless, oral thrush is rarely an issue for healthy adults and children. However, the infection can spread if left untreated and may lead to serious health complications. Protect yourself and your family with a few simple measures to help reduce your risk of infection.
- Brush teeth at least twice a day
- Visit your dentist on a regular basis
- Limit your consumption of sugary foods
- Maintain good blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
- Rinse your mouth after taking certain medications
- Treat dry mouth symptoms with a mouthwash specifically designed to aid with moisture
- Care for your dentures with nightly removal, daily cleaning, and ensure they fit correctly
Encouraging your child to brush can be a hassle, but to prevent oral thrush from manifesting into something more serious, they need to brush and floss twice daily. Fun toothpaste flavors, their favorite characters, and exciting apps can help motivate your kids to keep reaching for their toothbrush.
If you’re diagnosed with oral thrush, your doctor may recommend an antifungal medication. Usually topical forms help relieve the symptoms and stop the spread of infection. However, in in more serious cases, a prescription for antifungal medication that works throughout your body may be given to boost effectiveness. There are several at-home remedies that help limit the spread of the infection:
- Brush and floss on a regular basis: toothpastes infused with bad breath fighting agents and comprehensive plaque removal properties can help.
- Replace your brush head often: electric toothbrushes are best for anyone looking to experience a more effective, tooth-by-tooth clean. Be sure to replace your brush head every three months and immediately after you show any signs of infection.
- Don’t share toothbrushes with anyone.
- Be sure to disinfect your dentures: ask your dental professional about disinfection options specific to your needs.
- Use a saltwater rinse: Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water.
If you experience a recurring or persistent oral thrush infection, be sure to speak with your dental professional right away.
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