- Medically reviewed by Dr. Andrea Pinto on 18 November, 2021
Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, describes a fungal imbalance in the mouth. We all have a fungus called Candida albicans in our mouths. When the natural flora inside our mouths becomes imbalanced, it can lead to an overgrowth of Candida albicans, which can lead to the symptoms of oral thrush or oral candidiasis.
Oral thrush can lead to the development of white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks, it may also spread to the roof of the mouth, gums and tonsils. Oral thrush most commonly affects babies, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.
Is oral thrush contagious?
Oral thrush may be contagious in people who are have a weakened immune system or are taking certain medications.
For healthier people, it is less common for oral thrush to be transmitted via kissing. Thrush isn’t considered particularly contagious but it can be transmitted from one person to another according to Cleveland Clinic.
As outlined above, oral thrush is most common in:
- Older people
- People with weakened immune systems
- People who are taking medications that affect the immune system
If you are concerned about your risk of getting oral thrush from someone who currently has it, avoid kissing until treatment has been completed. It’s also important to wash your hands if you come into close or intimate physical contact with someone who has thrush.
How long is oral thrush contagious?
Oral thrush, while it is not considered to be highly contagious, can be transmitted from one person to the other via salvia (kissing).
Theoretically speaking, oral thrush may be transmitted while it is active, therefore it is “contagious” until it is treated using anti-fungal medications or an anti-biotic.
The incubation period of oral thrush is 2-5 days which means that it may take 2-5 days for the symptoms of oral thrush to appear.
Symptoms of oral thrush
Some of the common signs and symptoms of oral thrush include:
- Creamy white lesions on your tongue and inner cheeks
- Creamy white lesions (sometimes) on the roof of your mouth, gums and tonsils
- Creamy white raised bumps in the mouth
- Redness in the mouth and throat
- Burning or soreness in the mouth or throat that may make it difficult to swallow
- Bleeding in the mouth or throat
- Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth
- Lowered sense of taste
- Redness, irritation and pain under dentures (denture stomatitis)
Causes of oral thrush
Some of the causes of oral thrush include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Taking antibiotics for a sustained period of time
- Taking medication for asthma
- Wearing dentures that do not fit properly
- Having a consistently dry mouth due to medication or a medical condition that you are living with
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat cancer
Can you kiss someone with oral thrush?
Even though oral thrush is not considered to be contagious, it doesn’t mean that there’s no risk of getting thrush from someone via kissing.
Therefore if you are aware that your partner has oral thrush, you should avoid kissing until your partner has been treated. If you have oral thrush, avoid kissing other people until you have been treated.
What can be mistaken for oral thrush?
It is possible for oral thrush to be mistaken for other health conditions such as hairy leukoplakia which may lead to creamy white patches on the tongue.
People are most likely to misdiagnose oral thrush if they try to diagnose themselves, which is why it is so important to visit a health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
What is the treatment for oral thrush?
The treatment for oral thrush may include anti-fungal or anti-biotic medications.
Some of the most common treatments for oral thrush include:
- fluconazole (Diflucan), an oral antifungal medication
- clotrimazole (Mycelex Troche), an antifungal medication that’s available as a lozenge
- nystatin (Nystop, Nyata), an antifungal mouthwash that you can swish in your mouth or swab in your baby’s mouth
- itraconazole (Sporanox), an oral antifungal medication that’s used to treat people who don’t respond to other treatments for oral thrush and people with HIV
- amphotericin B (AmBisome, Fungizone), a medication that’s used to treat severe cases of oral thrush
- Thrush - my.clevelandclinic.org
- Is thrush contagious? - medicine.net
- Oral thrush - mayoclinic.org
- Everything you need to know about oral thrush - healthline.com