Oral Thrush / Oral Candidiasis
Oral thrush (oral candidiasis) is a common fungal infection, most often found in patients who are missing all their teeth. These include infants, and patients whose teeth are congenitally missing or have been lost—especially denture wearers who infrequently remove their dentures for cleaning and soft tissue rest. It can also occur following antibiotic therapy, but less commonly in the mouth.
Most oral thrush is caused by the fungus, Candida albicans, and there are several variants. Atrophic candidiasis presents as a fiery red, bald/shiny oral mucosa which can be a very painful condition, and may represent a side effect of a more involved condition, such as diabetes or impaired immune function.
Pseudomembranous candidiasis, the classical variant, is more benign and typically presents with whitish-yellow curds on the oral mucosa which can be rubbed off (with some difficulty). The underlying soft tissue is typically bright red and very tender.
Angular cheilitis is a candida infection that occurs at the junction of the upper and lower lip (i.e. the corners of the mouth, or commissures). The condition is a common finding in patients who have lost multiple back teeth, and whose bite has collapsed (also known as loss of vertical dimension of occlusion), such that the patient’s cheeks fold over on themselves at the corners. It is also sometimes seen in nutritional deficiencies.
Candida infections in adult patients with teeth are uncommon, and should raise suspicions that the patient may have HIV.