Monday February 24 2014

Oral thrush: how to deal with it

By Joseph Bahingwire

Ensuring proper dental hygiene is one of the best ways to fight oral thrush along with all the negative effects that come with it. Oral thrush or the white tongue, can range from a non-threatening concern to one that requires medical attention.

Dr Agnes Kiwanuka, a dentist in Kampala, says oral thrush is mostly caused by immune suppression although in some cases it can be due to using a lot of antibiotics that lead to one having a white surface on the tongue. “Oral thrush, also known as candidiasis, is as a result of an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth, illnesses, medications and antibiotic treatment,” she says.

Antibiotic treatment can cause oral thrush by reducing the balance of microorganisms in the mouth and to overcome these dentists can apply antifungals for treatment. “Immune suppression is caused by among other factors HIV infections and if not treated can lead to bad smell in the mouth an in the long run oral pains, especially after the tongue has developed some wounds,” Dr Kiwanuka adds.

She says a healthy tongue should be pink and moist with a thin white coating on the surface. “However, a white tongue can be caused by a removable coating of food debris or bacterial plaque that can be removed by proper dental hygiene,” she says.

Dr Kiwanuka says following good oral hygiene practices can help overcome oral thrush before it becomes serious. “Once you tongue starts developing a white coating, make sure you brush at least thrice a day, do mouth flossing a least once a day, avoid mouth washes or spray,” she advises.

She adds that an oral thrush victim should limit the amount of sugars they consume because too much sugar can also cause the problem and in case it persists should visit a dentist for medical attention.

The treatment for tongue problems should however depend on the cause of the problem. The other common problems associated with the tongue include discolouration, increased size or swelling, abnormalities of the surface, pain, taste concerns and leukoplakia.

Leukoplakia is characterised by white patches that cannot be scraped off and may be related to longer-term irritation in the mouth which is mostly caused by excessive use of tobacco.
“HIV testing should be considered if hairy leukoplakia presents without a known immune compromising condition so that antiviral medications can be used if it is found to be caused by HIV infection,” Dr Kiwanuka advises.