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Dental wellness during Ramadan

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Navigating dental challenges during the fasting month requires a thoughtful and proactive approach. PHoto by Rauf Alvi - Unsplash

By: Assoc. Prof. Dr Azwatee Abdul Aziz

The approaching fasting month of Ramadan marks a period of deep spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and community for millions across the globe. While fasting holds significant religious importance, it is crucial to address the potential impact on oral health during this sacred time. It is important to deal with dental issues in the month of fasting so that people can continue their spiritual activities while maintaining optimal oral health.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Azwatee Abdul Aziz

Fasting involves a shift in regular eating patterns, affecting saliva production, and nutrient intake. These changes can lead to various dental challenges, including dry mouth, heightened susceptibility to cavities, and enamel erosion. A holistic approach to dental health is essential to address these challenges comprehensively.

1. Hydration as a cornerstone. Dehydration is a common consequence of fasting, impacting saliva production and creating an environment conducive to bacterial growth. Adequate hydration during non-fasting hours is paramount. Regular sips of water and avoidance of caffeinated beverages can help maintain optimal saliva flow, reducing the risk of dry mouth and associated dental issues.

2. Nourishing the teeth with nutrient-rich choices. Balanced and nutrient-rich meals are not only crucial for overall health but also play a pivotal role in supporting dental well-being. When breaking the fast, prioritize foods rich in calcium, phosphorus, and essential vitamins. Dairy products, leafy greens, fruits, and lean proteins contribute to strong teeth and gums.

3. Mindful sugar consumption. Consuming sweet kuihs and desserts is a cherished ‘tradition’ among many households during Ramadan. However, it is essential to exercise mindfulness in sugar intake. Excessive sugars can contribute to tooth decay and other oral issues. Opt for natural sugars found in fruits and limit the consumption of processed sweets. Choosing sugar-free alternatives whenever possible is a prudent approach.

4. Consistent oral hygiene practices. Maintaining a rigorous oral hygiene routine is fundamental in preventing dental problems. Brush your teeth after the pre-dawn (sahur) and sunset (iftar) meals, utilizing fluoride toothpaste to strengthen enamel. Dental floss is indispensable for removing food particles from between teeth, mitigating the risk of cavities and gum problems.

5. Limiting the impact of acidic beverages. Acidic beverages, including citrus juices and sodas, can erode tooth enamel over time. If these beverages are part of your diet (particularly during iftar), using a straw can minimize direct contact with teeth. Rinsing your mouth with water afterward helps neutralize acids and protect enamel.

To ensure a harmonious balance between spiritual practices and dental health during the fasting month, consider incorporating the following practical tips too:

1. Pre-Ramadan dental check-up. Schedule a dental check-up before the fasting month begins. Identifying and addressing any existing dental issues will help prevent complications during this period.

2. Traditional approaches. Consider using a miswak or a soft toothbrush tespecially during fasting hours. This traditional approach aligns with maintaining oral hygiene while respecting fasting practices.

3. Alcohol-free mouthwash. Incorporate alcohol-free mouthwash into your daily routine. It aids in reducing bacteria in the mouth, providing an extra layer of protection against cavities and bad breath.

4. Sugar-free gum for saliva stimulation. Chewing sugar-free gum during non-fasting hours can stimulate saliva production, helping to maintain a moist environment in the mouth and reducing the risk of dry mouth.

Successfully navigating dental challenges during the fasting month requires a thoughtful and proactive approach. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can maintain optimal oral health while fully engaging in the spiritual significance of this sacred time.

Achieving a harmonious balance between spiritual devotion and dental well-being ensures that the fasting month leaves not only a profound impact on the soul but also a lasting and radiant smile on your face, reflecting both holiness and health.

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The author is an Associate Professor at the Department of Restorative Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at azwatee@um.edu.my

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