Home Remedies for Oral Thrush

child getting an oral exam

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White patches in your mouth or throat may be a sign of oral thrush, a yeast infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans. An overgrowth of this fungus creates raised white lesions that appear on the tongue, inside of the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, and throat.

Not only are these spots unsightly, but they may also become painful and bleed if touched or scraped. This can make everyday activities like eating and brushing your teeth particularly uncomfortable.

In some cases, oral thrush can give you a cottony feeling in your mouth—and may even alter or diminish your sense of taste. If you are suffering from this type of fungal infection, you likely want relief fast. Here is what you need to know about thrush including some remedies you can try at home.

Causes of Thrush 

A healthy mouth often contains small amounts of Candida albicans, but bacteria keep them from overgrowing to the point of being problematic. When you experience stress, illness, or other disruptions to your immune system, this balance can be disturbed, leading to fungal infection.

People who have depressed immune systems due to uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, or chronic illness are at higher risk of developing thrush, as are people with poorly fitting dentures.

Aaron Hartman, MD

If thrush is causing symptoms, you should probably be seen by a doctor. First, use a prescription and then follow up with these home remedies.

— Aaron Hartman, MD

Certain medications can also increase your risk of getting this fungal infection. These include antibiotics, corticosteroids, and birth control pills. Infants are especially susceptible to oral thrush.

When a baby has thrush, they may become extra fussy during feedings. Breastfed babies can also pass the infection to the skin on their mothers’ breasts or nipples. Mothers and babies who share a case of thrush are usually treated at the same time to keep the infection from recurring.

“If thrush is causing symptoms, you should probably be seen by a doctor,” says integrative and functional medicine doctor Aaron Hartman, MD. “First, use a prescription and then follow up with these home remedies.”

Home Remedies for Thrush

Because thrush is a fungal infection, it will likely require treatment that kills the Candida albicans fungus.

“If you actually see the white flakes, medical treatment with an anti-fungal is required,” Dr. Hartman says. “However, there are milder versions of thrush that also include bacterial overgrowth that many people can take care of outside of a doctor’s office.”

According to Dr. Hartman, the goal of many home remedies is to address the pH level inside the mouth. An acidic (or low) pH in the mouth makes it easier for yeast and bacteria to grow.

“For those with milder symptoms—perhaps marked only by a red irritated mouth and tongue and/or gum bleeding—using therapies to help change the environment of the mouth to make it inhospitable to yeast is all that is needed," he says.

Here are some remedies you may wish to try at home after you have talked with a healthcare professional.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a jack-of-all-trades pantry staple. In addition to its uses as a household cleaner and baking ingredient, it might also hold promise as a home remedy for oral thrush.

An older study from 2009 examined the effects of baking soda on dentures infected with Candida albicans. It found that baking soda was a “viable alternative” for killing the fungus, compared with other cleaning agents.

More recent research from 2017 looked at how baking soda might prevent thrush when used directly in the mouth. This study was performed on people who had received free flap reconstruction surgery—a procedure frequently followed by a fungal infection. In these patients, using an oral baking soda solution was effective for preventing thrush.

For an at-home anti-thrush baking soda rinse, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in 1 cup of warm water. Swish it around in your mouth for about 30 seconds, then spit it out.

Eating Fermented Foods

Adding more fermented foods to your diet is a good idea any time, but especially when you are suffering from thrush. Foods rich in probiotics like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha help create a thriving microbiome of friendly bacteria.

These good bugs have been shown to decrease inflammation, enabling your body to better resist infection. Choose a low-sugar yogurt as a daily snack or try adding a side of kimchi at dinner for a probiotic boost.

Lemon Juice

Another simple remedy for fungal infection may lie in your kitchen as well—lemon juice. One study on HIV-positive patients found that a mixture of lemon juice and lemongrass worked to treat oral thrush.

The lemony mixture was more effective for reducing the white patches than gentian violet. Gentian violet is an alternative home remedy that is less desirable because it may leave purple stains and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Applying lemon juice directly to lesions in the mouth may be overly painful. Instead, try mixing the juice of 1/2 lemon in 1 cup of warm water. Swish this around in your mouth and spit it out.

Apple Cider Vinegar

You have probably heard of the many purported uses of apple cider vinegar. Now you can add a home remedy for oral thrush to the list! One study found that an apple cider vinegar solution had anti-fungal properties when used to clean dentures infected with Candida.

While this research did not look at the effects of apple cider vinegar directly in the mouth, its results were promising. Try rinsing your mouth with a solution of 1 teaspoon raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of warm water. Swish thoroughly and spit.

Olive or Coconut Oil

While many home remedies focus on recalibrating the pH of the mouth, oils like olive oil or coconut oil counter bad bacteria in a different way.

“These oils dissolve the membranes of the bacteria, breaking down biofilms which are buildups of mucus in your mouth that yeast and bacteria can live in,” says Dr. Hartman. “Try taking 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, swishing it vigorously in the mouth for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then spitting it out.”

Salt Water

A saltwater rinse will not necessarily make oral thrush disappear, but it can provide some relief by soothing pain and even promoting wound healing.

To create your own saline rinse, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm water. Swish this solution around in your mouth as you would mouthwash, then spit it out.

A Word From Verywell

Home remedies can be useful for taming the unpleasant symptoms of thrush, but they are not always appropriate. If you are unsure about whether to try a home remedy—or whether the one you have chosen is working—do not hesitate to talk to a healthcare provider. They can advise you on the best route to take so that you are feeling better soon.

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8 Sources
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