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Mouth Diseases

Understanding Yeast Infections of the Mouth

Every person, regardless of their age, carries different types of yeast in and on their bodies at all times. In the mouth, a specific kind of yeast, called Candida, can usually be found. Candida is a normal inhabitant of the body (and is referred to as a commensal organism) that is repressed by the body’s immune system and other kinds of bacteria that normally live in the mouth. However, when a person's immune system is weakened or they take antibiotics that alter the normal bacteria inhabiting the mouth, the yeast can grow past normal levels. This causes a yeast infection of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and tongue. As a result, sores can occur in the mouth, on the tongue and at the corners of the lips.


What You Can Do

If you develop a mild oral yeast infection after being on antibiotics, eating yogurt or taking over-the-counter acidophilus capsules can be helpful in reducing the side effects. If you are diabetic and experiencing an oral yeast infection, improving control of blood sugar levels will often prove effective in clearing the infection. If lesions or burning pain persist or worsen, you should visit your dentist or primary care provider for an evaluation.


Recognizing the Signs

While some people will not experience the symptoms of a Candida infection, others will notice symptoms ranging from discomfort in the mouth to bleeding. Symptoms include:

Most symptoms of these symptoms are from the disruption of the mucus membrane which causes burning and pain when a person eats or drinks. Some people will also notice the appearance of whitish, “cheesy” or velvety lesions in the mouth and on the tongue, which can slowly increase in number and in size, and in most cases be easily wiped off leaving a reddened irritated the underlying tissue that in some instances can bleed As a result of infection, irritation and breakdown of the oral lining (mucosa) occurs causing the symptoms of pain and or burning to increase due to the loss of protection provided by the oral lining.


What Are the Risk Factors?

Anything that represses the immune system, alters the normal occuringbacteria or disturbs the mouth may aid in the overgrowth of Candida and contribute to an oral yeast infection. Risk factors for developing an oral yeast infection include:


More About Candida

Candida is the primary species of oral yeast. It usually exists in the mouth without causing problems. However, under certain situations the yeast can change and cause an infection. There are four major forms of infection associated with Candida, the most common of which is thrush.

Marked by its presentation as a white, ropey covering of the lining of the mouth and tongue, this kind of yeast infection can be wiped off easily. Thrush is commonly seen in infants, and it is not considered unusual unless it lasts longer than two weeks. In addition, diabetics who have had high blood sugar levels are more susceptible to oral yeast infection.

The other forms of oral yeast infections are more concerning, usually caused by chronic irritation of the mucosa by the yeast. This can result in changes to the surface of the tongue and mouth's lining and the development of ulcers in the mouth. If a person has a weakened immune system, such as from AIDS or receiving chemotherapy, Candida can spread throughout the body. This could lead to an infection of the esophagus, brain (meningitis), heart, joints (arthritis) or eyes.

That’s why if you have lesions or burning pain that persist or worsen, you should visit your dentist or primary care provider for an evaluation.


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Last Reviewed: Jun 14, 2012

Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
School of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University