Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Oral Care

Font Size

Throat Culture

How It Is Done

You will be asked to tilt your head back and open your mouth as wide as possible. Your doctor will press your tongue down with a flat stick (tongue depressor) and then examine your mouth and throat. A clean swab will be rubbed over the back of your throat, around your tonsils, and over any red areas or sores to collect a sample.

The sample may also be collected using a throat washout. For this test, you will gargle a small amount of salt water and then spit the fluid into a clean cup. This method gives a larger sample than a throat swab and may make the culture more reliable.

If your child needs a throat culture, you may hold your child on your lap while the sample is taken. This can prevent your child from moving around too much.

How It Feels

You may feel like gagging when the swab touches the back of your throat. If your throat is sore, the swabbing may be slightly painful.

Risks

Generally there is no chance of problems with collecting a sample for a throat culture. Your doctor can talk to you about any specific risks of the test.

Results

A throat culture is a test to find a bacterial or fungal infection in the throat. Throat culture test results for bacterial infections are ready in 1 to 2 days, depending on which bacteria are being tested for. Test results for a fungus may take about 7 days.

Rapid strep test results are ready in 10 to 15 minutes. This test is only for bacterial infections caused by strep bacteria.

Rapid strep test
Normal (negative results):

No strep bacteria are detected. A throat culture may be recommended.

Abnormal (positive results):

Strep bacteria are detected. This means you have strep throat. Antibiotics can be started immediately.

Throat culture
Normal (negative)

No infection (bacteria or fungi) grows in the culture.

A negative throat culture may mean that the cause of your infection is a virus, rather than bacteria or fungus.

Some viruses that cause throat infections include:

Abnormal (positive)

Bacteria grows in the culture. Some bacterial throat infections include:

Fungus grows in the culture. The most common fungal throat infection is thrush, caused by the fungus Candida albicans.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Taking antibiotics recently. This may prevent the growth of an infection in the culture.
  • Contamination of the throat culture sample by other types of bacteria from the mouth.
  • Using antiseptic mouthwashes before the culture is taken.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

big smile
Article
Man grinding teeth
Article
 
Close-up of toothbrush
Health Check
how your mouth impacts your health
Slideshow
 

are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
bpa dental sealants
Video
 
Healthy Mouth Slideshow
Video
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 

15 myths and facts about cavities
Video
how healthy is your mouth
Video
 
elmo brushing teeth
fitVideo
5 ways to prevent diabetes dental problems
Video