Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Oral thrush

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a mouth infection caused by a yeast fungus.
  • Many people have candida present in their mouth without experiencing any problems.
  • There are many risk factors for developing oral thrush including diabetes, chronic illness and poor dental hygiene.
  • Oral thrush can be treated with antifungal mouthwashes, ointments or medications.
  • See your doctor if you have severe symptoms of oral thrush or your symptoms return after treatment.

What is oral thrush?

Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is an infection of the mouth caused by yeast (a type of fungus) known as candida.

Candida doesn’t always cause symptoms. Most people have candida present in their mouth without experiencing any problems.

Candida can cause problems when there is a change in the microbes (tiny living particles) living inside the mouth. This reduces the number of good bacteria and allows the yeast fungus to grow and multiply.

What causes oral thrush?

Oral thrush is caused by a yeast fungus called candida. There a few different types of candida that can cause oral thrush, but candida albicans is the most common cause.

Who gets oral thrush?

You are more likely to suffer from oral thrush if you:

Oral thrush can also be a side effect of inhaled corticosteroids, a type of medication used in lung conditions such as asthma.

What are the symptoms of oral thrush?

Oral thrush causes white patches in the mouth that can be wiped away, leaving red and bleeding areas.

Other symptoms may include:

  • pain or burning in the mouth
  • an unpleasant taste
  • trouble tasting food
  • a red mouth and throat
  • cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • difficulty eating and drinking
Illustration showing a dental filling used to fill a hole or cavity in your tooth.
Oral thrush causes white patches in the mouth.

If you are concerned that you might have oral thrush, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see my doctor?

Many treatments for oral thrush are available at your local pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. If you have had thrush before and know what it feels like, you may decide to speak to your pharmacist and buy an over-the-counter treatment.

You should see your doctor if you’re not sure what is causing your symptoms, if your symptoms are severe, or if they come back after treatment.

How is oral thrush diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose oral thrush by asking about your symptoms and examining your mouth. If your doctor isn’t sure if you have oral thrush, or if your symptoms do not respond to treatment, your doctor may perform a swab of your mouth sores. This can confirm the diagnosis and help choose the best treatment for you.

In rare cases, your doctor may refer you for an endoscopy to see if you also have thrush in your oesophagus or digestive tract.

How is oral thrush treated?

There are a number of treatments available to relieve oral thrush.

Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend an antifungal mouthwash, ointment or lozenge. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication in the form of a tablet.

You will usually need to continue treatment for at least 1 week. Every treatment is different, so ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Speak to your doctor if the thrush comes back after treatment.

How can I prevent oral thrush?

Here are some tips to prevent oral thrush:

  • Brush your teeth after each meal with fluoride toothpaste to reduce the build-up of bacteria in your mouth.
  • Don’t use antiseptic mouthwashes. These can change the balance of ‘good’ bacteria in the mouth, allowing candida to grow and cause oral thrush.
  • If you wear dentures, make sure that they are cleaned properly and that the skin under the dentures is also clean. Rinse your mouth out after every meal.
  • If you use inhaled corticosteroids, rinse your mouth well with water after each inhalation.
  • Drink water, unless you have an existing medical condition that means this is not possible.
  • if you smoke, try to cut down or quit. Smoking can make symptoms worse.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Childhood rashes - Oral thrush

Oral thrush is a type of fungus infection, very common among babies. It appears as moist, milky-white patches in and around a child's mouth. Usually oral thrush is not serious and can sometimes even go unnoticed.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Oral thrush - MyDr.com.au

Oral thrush is an infection with a type of fungus called Candida. Find out the symptoms, risk factors, treatment and how to prevent it.

Read more on myDr website

Oral thrush in babies and children | Raising Children Network

Oral thrush is a fungal infection in and around babies’ mouths. It’s common and isn’t usually anything to worry about. Read about oral thrush treatment.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

How Asthma Effects Oral Health

One in nine Australians have asthma – this is about 2.7 million people. People with asthma may be at higher risk of tooth decay, tooth erosion, gum disease and oral thrush.

Read more on Teeth.org.au website

Oral healthcare - MyDr.com.au

Oral health problems include tooth decay, gum disease, mouth ulcers, halitosis, childhood teething and oral thrush.

Read more on myDr website

Dental health - Diabetes Australia

The mouth is often overlooked as an area of the body with complications associated with diabetes.

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Managing day-to-day | MND Australia

Mouth care is essential for people with MND, and particularly for those who have swallowing difficulties or varying degrees of tongue and throat muscle weakness

Read more on MND Australia website

Treating Asthma in Children - Asthma Australia

A doctor should always be involved when treating asthma in children. After diagnosis the doctor will discuss the best approach for treatment.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Fungal Tests - Pathology Tests Explained

Fungal tests are used to help detect and diagnose a fungal infection and guide treatment

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Inhaler devices for respiratory medicines - NPS MedicineWise

Learn more about inhaler options for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) & asthma. 

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.