Some common causes of mouth infections can include oral thrush, herpes, and gingivitis. Treatment depends on the underlying cause but can include antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungals.

Mouth infections can be uncomfortable and concerning. They can make everyday activities, such as eating or brushing teeth, more challenging.

They can affect various parts of the oral cavity, including the gums, tongue, and throat. Some infections are mild, and at-home measures are often enough to treat them. However, others may require medical intervention.

In this article, we explore several types of mouth infections, including their symptoms and treatment. We also answer some commonly asked questions.

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Oral thrush is a fungal infection that commonly occurs due to Candida albicans, a type of yeast that naturally resides in the mouth. Doctors may also refer to it as oral candidiasis.

Some factors, such as a weakened immune system or the use of antibiotics, can lead to an overgrowth of Candida and thrush.


Oral thrush is common in babies and older people with dentures. While it is usually harmless, common symptoms can include:

  • white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, or throat
  • redness, soreness, or discomfort
  • difficulty swallowing

See pictures of oral thrush.


Treatment of oral thrush may include:

Oral herpes most commonly occurs due to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This highly contagious virus affects approximately 67% of people aged under 50 globally.

HSV-1 can spread through close contact, such as sharing utensils, kissing, or oral sex.


People with HSV-1 may not show any symptoms, but they can still pass on the virus. The symptoms of HSV-1 are typically mild but can cause discomfort and the following:

See pictures of oral herpes.


There is no cure for oral herpes, but there are many ways to treat it. Avoiding close contact with individuals experiencing active outbreaks can also help reduce the risk of transmission.

When symptoms occur, they can sometimes resolve on their own after several weeks. Still, some people may wish to seek treatment to help manage symptoms.

Doctors may prescribe antiviral medications, while oral antivirals that a person takes via the mouth can help shorten outbreaks of herpes. Topical antivirals can help relieve itching or tingling.

Prescription antivirals include the following:

  • acyclovir
  • famciclovir
  • valacyclovir

Gingivitis is a type of early stage gum disease. It primarily occurs due to oral hygiene issues and the buildup of bacteria, plaque, or tartar along the gumline.

Without treatment, gingivitis can lead to receding gums, periodontitis, tooth loss, and other serious complications.


Common symptoms of gingivitis include:


Treatment for gingivitis is most effective if an individual practices good oral hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing.

If symptoms persist or worsen, treatment options may include:

  • professional dental cleaning — also known as scaling and root planing — to remove plaque and tartar buildup
  • a prescription for antibacterial mouthwash
  • oral antibiotics, if a bacteria causes gingivitis
  • periodontal surgery

While some at-home measures can help with certain mouth infections, others may require medical attention. Individuals need to speak with a doctor or dentist if they experience symptoms such as:

Below are answers to common questions about mouth infections.

What are the signs of infection in the mouth?

Signs of infection in the mouth include redness, swelling, or tenderness. Other symptoms include white patches or sores, bleeding gums, persistent bad breath, and pain in the teeth, gum, or jaw, making eating and drinking difficult.

What is the most common oral infection?

The most common oral infection varies depending on factors such as age, underlying health conditions, and oral hygiene habits.

However, conditions such as thrush, oral herpes, and gum infections are among the most common.

How do you treat a mouth infection?

Treatment for a mouth infection depends on the specific type and severity of the condition. It may include home remedies or professional medical intervention, such as:

  • medications, such as antifungals, antivirals, or antibiotics
  • avoiding triggers, such as certain foods or behaviors that may worsen symptoms
  • seeking professional dental or medical care for severe or recurrent infections
  • improving oral hygiene practices

If an individual experiences a mouth infection, they need to contact a doctor or dentist, who can advise on the most appropriate treatment.

Mouth infections can arise from various causes, including fungal, viral, and bacterial pathogens or improper dental hygiene practices. Oral thrush, herpes, and gum infections are all common causes.

While some infections may be manageable at home with proper care and medication, others may require medical intervention.

If an individual experiences persistent or severe symptoms, it is essential to seek medical advice promptly to ensure appropriate treatment and prevent further complications. By practicing good oral hygiene and seeking timely medical care when necessary, individuals can manage and help prevent mouth infections.