There are plenty of factors that can disturb the natural ecosystem of microorganisms that live in your mouth, unfortunately. Oral thrush is most common in people who:
- Wear dentures (especially ill-fitting dentures)
- Have compromised immune systems (from cancer treatment or HIV/AIDS, for example)
- Have diabetes
- Use inhaled corticosteroids (especially with improper technique)
- Are taking antibiotics or birth control
- Are under stress
- Have dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Have poor oral hygiene
Diabetes, for example, creates more sugars in the person's saliva than is normal, which Candida considers a welcome mat. Improper usage of an inhaler can result in residual steroids in the mouth, which your balance-loving fungi and bacteria will protest. Antibiotics slay germs, but they can do so somewhat indiscriminately, killing off the good kind you need to keep yeasts in check.
The common factor in most of the above, of course, is that they're conditions or behaviors, such as smoking, that directly affect your mouth's microorganism population.
The group in whom infections are most worrisome is those with compromised immune systems. As we mentioned earlier, these infections can spread to vital organs and lead to serious health issues. Oral or intravenous antifungal medications such as fluconazole, itraconazole or miconazole may be used to wipe out Candida. With late-stage HIV, amphotericin B may be necessary. Antifungals can cause intestinal distress, but the most serious side effect to watch out for is liver damage.
For the rest, modern medicine comes to the rescue in the form of a mouthwash (that doesn't taste great), drops, gels or lozenges. Nystatin is the drug most commonly used, and it requires about a week of application to do the dirty job.
Antifungals aren't your only option, however. Take a look at some home remedies on the next page.