Written by Dr. Febin Mary George, BDS | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Shaista Salam, BDS, Dr. Zein El Hammouz, DDS, MFD/RCSI
1. What is the relationship between Ramadan and oral health?
2. How can I take care of my teeth during Ramadan? Maintain good oral hygiene.
3. Diet suggestions for your fasting
4. Tips for patients wearing aligners during Ramadan
Ramadan, the holy month of spiritual reflection and fasting, is a time of deep contemplation for Muslims spanning the globe. In this period, one strives to redirect focus towards the divine and remind oneself of the blessings bestowed by Allah.
As an aligner wearer, it is natural to have doubts regarding aligner use during the period of fasting, such as ‘Can I wear aligners while fasting?’. Well, there is nothing wrong with you wearing your aligners even while you fast, as nothing from the aligners enters your stomach.
This article is meant to address all your concerns, similar to the one mentioned above, regarding Ramadan and oral health.
Fasting during Ramadan has numerous spiritual benefits. But in the absence of good oral hygiene, it can also impact your oral health. Fasting can lead to a decrease in saliva production, which may make your mouth feel dry. (1) Another side effect of inadequate oral hygiene practices during Ramadan is bad breath. The decreased salivary flow rate during fasting may contribute to this bad mouth odor (1) We know saliva helps keep our mouths clean by washing away food particles. It neutralizes the acid produced by dental plaque and keeps a check on bacteria responsible for tooth decay and bad breath. Thus, a change in the saliva flow may create a suitable environment for bacteria to coat the teeth and tongue, contributing to malodor.
It is vital to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily during Ramadan. To check plaque build-up, brush your teeth using fluoridated toothpaste twice daily for at least 2 minutes, preferably after meals, in the morning and before bed. Brushing ensures that your teeth are clean from remaining food debris that can lead to bad breath.
Floss and interdental brushes take care of the interdental areas (areas between two teeth) by driving out the food particles stuck within them and preventing the plaque layer from building up there.
Your tongue has a rough surface where tiny food particles can easily get stuck and cause bad breath. That is why you should clean your tongue with a tongue scraper to maintain a healthy and fresh breath.
The use of Miswak, the natural toothbrush made out of twigs from the arak tree (Salvadora Persica), to clean teeth has been an age-old practice. Using miswak is considered a Sunnah in Islam, and it can be used as a substitute for toothbrushing during the day while fasting. Miswak is believed to have antimicrobial properties and can help prevent bad breath and gum disease. (2)
Make the best use of the non-fasting hours in staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Not only is it going to help you compensate for the dehydration that you experience during your fast. Set your goal to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water between iftar and suhoor.
To ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy and strong, see your dentist regularly. Getting a routine dental checkup before and after Ramadan is a great way to keep track of your Ramadan and oral health.
Although good dietary habits are important even when you are not fasting, there should be greater emphasis on it when fasting. Ramadan and oral health is directly related to your diet, so let’s look at some ways to ensure your diet is healthy during Ramadan.
Salty foods such as pickles have a tendency to further dehydrate you and make you feel more thirsty owing to the sodium content inside them. It is recommended to limit or avoid the consumption of salty foods.
Foods that contain onions or garlic tend to leave an unpleasant breath for a long time. Hence, it is recommended to avoid food preparations with them as their main ingredient. Instead, you can always consume food high in water, like cucumbers, watermelons, or celery, which help flush out food particles from the mouth.
Sugary drinks can put you at a high risk of dental decay and bad breath. Hence, it is advised to avoid or limit the intake of sugary beverages.
Caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee have a diuretic effect, which means you lose more water through urination. Therefore, avoiding caffeinated drinks can prevent dehydration during Ramadan.
It is highly recommended to consume spicy food as it may irritate the stomach lining, which grows more sensitive during periods of fasting. You may use mild spices like fennel and cardamom instead in your preparations.
As Ramadan is a month of spiritual rejuvenation and detachment from one’s vices, you can use this time to avoid smoking and finally quit the habit. That way, you ensure a longer life for your teeth, gums, and overall health!
You can wear your aligners every day for 22 hours, even while you fast during Ramadan. Here are a few things that you should consider while wearing aligners and fasting:
Schedule a routine dental checkup with your dentist before Ramadan. If there are any dental issues, you can get them addressed beforehand.
Remove your aligners before Iftar and Suhur and clean them with a soft toothbrush under running water. Read more on how to take care of your aligners here.
You can continue wearing aligners during fasting if you follow special precautions and care instructions. Remember to stay hydrated, maintain good oral hygiene, and avoid sugary and sticky foods. By following these tips and wearing aligners as directed, you can successfully progress in your orthodontic treatment journey even while fasting. Never hesitate to consult your dentist or orthodontist for any concerns regarding your aligners.