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Celebrating World Oral Health Day in the heart of Ramadan

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May this Ramadan bring a month of blessings, all while maintaining a good oral healthcare (Rauf Alvi - Unsplash)

By: Dr. Sofya Zulkiffli, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noor Azlin Yahya, Dr. Anas Hakimee Ahmad Ubaidillah

Ramadan, a religious month observed by millions around the world, holds thoughtful cultural and spiritual significance. This period promotes a sense of self-discipline, empathy, and spiritual belief as families and communities come together, observing fasting from sunrise to sunset. It’s a time of self-reflection, dedication, and, ultimately, the celebration of Aidilfitri. This year, Ramadan coincides with World Oral Health Day, an annual global event dedicated to highlight the importance of oral hygiene. This provides a unique opportunity to celebrate and promote oral health awareness within the context of Ramadan spirit.

During Ramadan, Muslims will fast from sunrise until sunset which can lead to dehydration and dry mouth. This condition, characterized by decreased saliva production, not only contributes to halitosis (also known as bad breath), but also increases the risk of tooth decay. Saliva is an integral part in the prevention of tooth decay, as it has cleansing effect, buffering ability, and antibacterial action. The reduced protective effects of saliva during this time highlight the need for heightened oral health awareness and care, aligning perfectly with the goals of World Oral Health Day.

The exciting Ramadan bazaars that only emerge during this holy month, offers a variable of delightful delicacies and sugary beverages. While these bazaars are closely associated with the Ramadan experience, they also pose potential risks to dental health. The high sugar content in many of these indulgences can lead to teeth decay, especially when combined with the diminished saliva production caused by dehydration due to fasting. World Oral Health Day serves as a timely reminder of the importance of moderation and the need to care for our oral health, even amidst the festivities.

Many Muslims may hesitate to seek dental treatment during Ramadan, fearing that procedures involving water might inadvertently break their fast. Many patients tend to postpone their dental treatment to after Ramadan, even though assurance was given by the dentist that proper water suction or moisture control will be performed throughout the procedure. Patients who have toothache resorts to consuming painkillers when they breakfast, to avoid going to the dentist during Ramadan.

However, most dental treatments, including emergency care, do not necessitate breaking the fast. According to guidelines released by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), dental treatment won’t interfere with fasting as long as the patient doesn’t purposefully swallow anything while receiving treatment.

Dental professionals understand the importance of this and can offer guidance on managing oral health without compromising religious practices. As we approach World Oral Health Day, it’s crucial to remember that oral health is integral to overall health and spiritual well-being. This day encourages us to prioritize our oral hygiene routines, ensuring that we maintain healthy smiles without interrupting our spiritual journey during Ramadan.

In anticipation of Aidilfitri and in alignment with World Oral Health Day, let’s embrace the mantra “prevention is better than cure.” By adopting good oral hygiene practices—brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing, and increasing water intake outside fasting hours—we can prevent dental issues and uphold our commitment to health. This proactive approach not only ensures a radiant smile for the Aidilfitri celebrations but also aligns with the global call to action for better oral health for all, championed by World Oral Health Day.

As we immerse ourselves in the beauty of Ramadan and the global community’s focus on oral health, let’s commit to maintaining our dental health, reflecting our dedication to personal and communal well-being. Celebrating World Oral Health Day within the context of Ramadan offers a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of oral health as part of our spiritual and physical journey, ensuring that we can fully enjoy the festivities and spiritual renewal that this time brings.

May this Ramadan bring a month of blessings to the Muslim community, all while maintaining a focus on the significance of oral healthcare.

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The authors are Restorative Specialists at the Restorative Department, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.

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