Hesperian Health Guides


Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 7 Part 1: Problems You Will See Most Often > Thrush

Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast fungus called Candida. It often appears when a person is weak and poorly nourished, or sick and taking medicine like tetracycline or ampicillin. In a baby, thrush usually appears on the tongue or top of the mouth. It can stop the baby from sucking. ln an adult, thrush often occurs under a denture. Thrush is a very common problem for people living with HIV.

DENT Ch7 Page 105-1.png
  • White patches on the tongue, cheek, or top of the mouth. Wipe the white area: If there is no bleeding it is old milk. If there is bleeding, it is thrush.
  • The child may not want to suck or eat.

There is usually something else present which is helping thrush to grow. Try to find what it is and deal with it. For example, treat the malnutrition, diabetes, or anemia, change or stop the antibiotic medicine, or clean the denture and leave it out of the mouth for a while. Then:

  1. Cover the white patches with nystatin drops. Use a full dropper 4 or 5 times a day until the patches are gone. If you do not have nystatin you can soak a piece of cotton in gentian violet and use it to paint the white patches 2 times a day.

    If the baby’s mother has sore, painful nipples, she may also have thrush in her breasts. She should treat her nipples the same way she treats the baby’s mouth.

    Do not use penicillin or any other antibiotic unless you need to treat something different. Thrush can get worse when a person uses an antibiotic for a long time.

  2. For children, continue breastfeeding. For older persons, make their food soft and easy to chew.
IMPORTANT! Sometimes white lines appear on the inside of an adult’s cheek or on the roof of the mouth. If these lines become sore and do not get better with treatment, they can change into a cancer. To prevent this cancer, ask the person to stop smoking (especially pipes), stop chewing betel nut, and get dentures adjusted if they do not fit properly.
This page was updated:19 Feb 2018