Your baby’s immune system is not quite as healthy and robust as an adult’s, so it can be easier for infections to develop. This includes oral thrush. Although it is often alarming to see in your little one, oral thrush is highly treatable and preventable and can even go away on its own in some cases.
By learning more about oral thrush in babies, and how it can affect your little one’s oral health, you can ensure that this condition receives the attention it deserves. Whether your child requires minimal treatment or more advanced oral care, the following informative guide can help you navigate this process.
What is oral thrush?
Candida albicans, also known as oral thrush or oral candidiasis, is a type of yeast infection that can form inside the mouth. This type of infection can actually affect people of all ages, but it most commonly affects babies under six months because of the still-developing immune system in children this age. Everyone has some amount of this bacteria in their mouth and digestive tracts, with our immune system and other “good” bacteria” working to keep it balanced.
Oral thrush in babies can develop when these bacteria levels become unbalanced, causing overgrowth. Because candida albicans is also the same bacteria that can cause diaper rash, both of these issues can sometimes be present in a child at the same time.
What causes oral thrush?
In addition to a reduced ability to fight off infection, the primary cause of oral thrush in babies is increased exposure to bacteria. For babies, this can happen during birth if there is a vaginal yeast infection present, or during nursing. Because babies have less capacity to balance increased levels of candida albicans, bacterial overgrowth and the symptoms of oral thrush can develop.
Oral Thrush Risk Factors
Additional risk factors include your child being sick or recovering from another illness, or if he or she has been taking antibiotics or steroid medication. This is because these medications can eliminate helpful bacteria and/or throw off bacteria levels in the body.
Oral Thrush Symptoms
If oral thrush does develop, it can be identified from the following symptoms:
- Cracked skin present at the corners of the mouth
- White patches on the lips, tongue, and inside of cheeks that have a “cottage cheese” like texture
- Mouth soreness
- Difficulty feeding
While some babies with oral thrush may have some trouble with breastfeeding, many do not have any noticeable signs of discomfort.
If you see any signs of oral thrush in your baby, it is important to seek assistance from a qualified health professional.
Oral Thrush Treatment
Doctors will typically diagnose oral thrush with a visual and physical examination, review of medical history, and discussion of symptoms with parents. Milder cases of oral thrush can often go away on their own with minimal treatment. Sometimes, yogurt with lactobacilli may be recommended as a supplement to your baby’s diet.
In more serious cases, doctors will prescribe an antifungal solution that can be applied to the inside of your baby’s mouth. If oral thrush persists for long periods of time, or continues to occur in children nine months or older, it could be a sign of another health condition or issue with their immune system.
Preventing Oral Thrush
Oral thrush in babies is preventable. Steps for minimizing the risk of infection include:
- Thoroughly sanitizing all bottles, nipples, and pacifiers that come in contact with your baby’s mouth
- Store breastmilk and formula in the refrigerator to stop bacteria from developing
- Breastfeeding mothers should take steps to prevent and treat yeast infections on their nipples, including the use of antifungal ointments
- Prioritize good early oral health in your baby, including speaking to and visiting your pediatric dentist as early as possible
Early oral care is about more than caring for teeth as they begin to come in. A pediatric dentist can be a helpful member of your prevention team for oral thrush and a range of other oral infections by teaching you proper oral hygiene practices. Although a full dental examination typically occurs depending on when baby teeth come in, the earlier you can start, the better. Pediatric dentists can still be a great resource for a healthy, infection-free mouth for your baby.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!