Is Oral Thrush Contagious

In this blog post we will be discussing whether oral thrush is contagious or not and we will also be covering topics such as what causes oral thrush and the right treatment for oral thrush.

Is Oral Thrush Contagious?

Yes, oral thrush is contagious. Though it does not infect the other people the way a truly contagious virus or bacteria, it can get transferred to the other person through direct contact and infect the person. Oral thrush is caused by a yeast or a fungus called Candida albicans. This fungus is not airborne and therefore, it will not spread via air. But if the site of an active infection is touched with bare hands, or the spores of the fungus come into direct contact with you as in during any kind of physical contact, you can get oral thrush.

Oral thrush is a transmissible infection and it can spread via direct contact. A person can transmit the candida fungus via physical contact like kissing, breastfeeding, sharing the same personal items, sexual intercourse etc. If there is an open wound in an area, like a small cut, and the spores of this yeast come into contact with this region, the fungus can infect that region and cause an active infection.

Even though oral thrush is not a serious disease, it can lead to great discomfort, especially if it is at the corners of the mouth. Oral thrush can greatly affect the quality of life of a person, which is why it is necessary to seek proper medical care for an oral thrush infection on time.

What Is Oral Thrush?

As mentioned above, oral thrush, or thrush in general is a yeast infection that is quite common. In general, a majority of the population carries candida in their mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are the wet regions of the body like the gums, inside of cheek, genital tract etc. But this does not mean that everyone will develop thrush. Thisi infection only starts when it is given the right kind of conditions.

Under the right kind of environment, this fungus can grow rapidly and lead to thrush. When this condition develops in the mouth, it is termed as oral thrush, indicating its presence in the oral region. Oral thrush looks like a deposition of white plaque, which may be scattered or a single large patch made up by the combination of many smaller lesions. It has a milky, cheese like appearance which is usually not painful.

A person may be compelled to wipe off the white plaque and may seem like the infection has gone. However, scrapping of the plaque again and again can lead to bleeding in the skin below and cause burning and pain. The plaque will most certainly reappear in a couple of hours after wiping. Therefore, the plaque deposits of oral thrush should not be scraped or wiped off.

How Do We Get Oral Thrush?

As mentioned earlier, candida needs the right kind of environment to grow and infest. It is an opportunistic infection and requires certain suitable conditions of the body that enable this fungus to multiply and flourish, leading to thrush. These conditions are mostly the same for a thrush infection to happen anywhere in the body. Following are the conditions that provide the right kind of environment for candida to grow:

  • Dry mouth: dryness of mouth gives the best suited environment for candida to grow. Saliva has many functions in the body and in the absence of saliva or when its production is reduced in the mouth, opportunistic microorganisms like candida can start to grow. This article highlights the importance of saliva in the mouth.
  • Dentures: oral thrush is most commonly encountered in the elderly population which wears dentures. Unclean dentures and ill-fitting or loose dentures are a major reason for developing oral thrush.
  • Antibiotics: long term use of antibiotics can also cause oral thrush. Antibiotics kill both the good as well as bad bacteria. The good bacteria is responsible for keeping the growth of candida in check. Once the number of good bacteria decreases in the mouth, candida, being an opportunistic infection, starts to grow, causing thrush.
  • Steroids: long term use of steroids weakens the immunity, which in turn can lead to oral thrush.
  • Diabetes: systemic diseases like diabetes can cause thrush. A diabetic person is prone to developing many secondary infections, thrush being one of them.
  • HIV: HIV is another systemic disease which can cause other secondary diseases due to weakened immunity.
  • Low immunity: weakening of immunity due to any reasons can allow many opportunistic infections to happen, oral thrush being one of them.
  • Poor oral hygiene: not maintaining proper oral hygiene can not lead to tooth diseases, it can also cause oral thrush and other bacterial infections of the mouth as well.

Can Oral Thrush Be Treated At Home?

Being a fungal infection, oral thrush requires proper medical management for treating it. Attempts to treat a thrush infection at home should not be made as it can lead to serious consequences. However, research has shown that cranberry juice is an effective home ingredient that controls the growth of candida and can also treat the infection. 

Cranberry juice creates an acidic environment which kills the fungus that causes thrush. Also, cranberry juice has shown to have proanthocyanidins, which inhibit the adherence of candida to the skins, leading to reduction in the infection. 

The spores of candida adhere to the skin and start multiplying when thrush happens. It is because of this adhering property of candida that leads to its multiplication in the area infested and also the creation of plaque lesions. If this adherence is stopped, candida ceases to infest the skin and the infection dies off. Therefore, because of the anti-adhering agent in the cranberry juice, it stops the growth of candida and treats the infection.

Apart from this, the first line medical treatment of candida is antifungal or anti-mycotic medicines. The most commonly prescribed ones are ketoconazole, clotrimazole, nystatin and miconazole. These medicines can be used orally or topically as an ointment or in case of severe infections, your dentist may even give a combination of the both along with an antifungal mouthwash. 

What Are The Precautions In Oral Thrush?

Though oral thrush is usually not a life threatening disease, it can cause a lot of discomfort if left untreated. In an immunocompromised patient, a case of untreated thrush can spread to other parts of the body and can even become fatal. Therefore, the first thing to do if you have developed oral thrush is to visit your dentist for treatment.

Avoid spicy and hot food. Though oral thrush is usually painless, scraping of the lesion can cause burning and pain. This will be heightened if you eat hot and spicy food. It is best to stick to foods less in spices in case you have an oral thrush.

Eat soft foods to avoid pain and discomfort while chewing and swallowing, especially if thrush has infested the throat.

Maintaining proper oral hygiene is imperative. Unclean mouth will help the fungus to grow even more. Make sure you brush your mouth twice daily and use an antifungal mouthwash along with brushing to ensure timely and complete healing of oral thrush.

Do not try to scrape off the plaque. As already discussed above, doing so can cause bleeding, pain and burning in the underlying tissue, which will only help the fungus to grow further. Avoid scraping or rubbing off the plaques of oral thrush.

Avoid kissing or any sexual activities if you or the other person has an active case of oral thrush. This can lead to transmission of candida and you or the other person can develop oral thrush. Engaging in oral sexual acts while a person has oral thrush will transfer the yeast to the genital organs, which can then lead to candiadiasis of the genital region. 

Do not share personal items like towels, handkerchief, utensils, toothbrush, makeup etc if you have an active infection of oral thrush. This way the yeast will get transferred to the person, and cause oral thrush in that person too.

Frequently Asked Questions (Is Oral Thrush Contagious)

Can you kiss someone with an oral thrush?

No, you should not kiss someone if you or the other person has an active infection of oral thrush. The yeast candida can be passed on to the other person through direct contact. The other person, or you can develop oral thrush, especially if there is an open cut present in the oral and peri oral region. Even the smallest of cuts can lead to candida infestation in that region.

Can oral thrush cause a sore throat?

Yes, oral thrush can cause a sore thrush, especially if the lesions of oral thrush are present on the throat. Oral thrush on the throat can be extremely uncomfortable as it will not only lead to sore throat, it will also make swallowing and speaking difficult.

Should you brush your tongue if you have an oral thrush?

If the tongue is not involved in oral thrush, and the lesions are present elsewhere in the mouth, the tongue can be cleaned with a brush. However, if the thrush is present on the tongue, using a brush to clean the tongue can lead to bleeding and pain when the thrush plaque will get scraped off while brushing. It is best to consult with a dentist and use antifungal mouthwash and medicines to clear the thrush and then start using a brush to clean the tongue.

Can thrush live on a toothbrush?

Yes, the spores of candida can live on a toothbrush, especially when an infected person has used it. It is better to change your brush if you have had oral thrush to minimize the chances of a recurrent infection.

Is cranberry juice good for thrush?

Research has shown that cranberry juice is effective in controlling oral thrush. Apart from being a healthy drink, it has the potential to control yeast infection as well. Not only oral thrush, a thrush in any part of the body can be controlled with cranberry juice.


As we learned that oral thrush is contagious and can get transferred via physical contact and sharing of personal items, it is important to maintain sanitisation and follow proper precautions to avoid transfer of oral thrush. Seeking timely treatment for oral thrush will ensure optimum healing and reduce the chances of contracting oral thrush again.


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