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How Fasting During Ramadan Can Affect Your Oral Health

As the month of Ramadan is observed, Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. The spiritual benefits of fasting are well documented and emphasised, however fasting does have an impact on your oral health. When you’re not eating or drinking, your mouth produces less saliva, which can lead to bad breath and other minor oral health problems which can be managed. Here’s expert advice on what you can do to maintain good oral health during a fast.

Saliva is your natural ‘mouthwash’. It helps wash food and plaque from the mouth and contains antibacterial agents. Fasting reduces the amount of saliva you produce. As the mouth becomes drier the bacteria that cause bad breath flourish.

Stopping water intake during the day exacerbates the problem as dead cells, plaque and debris is not being rinsed away. Fasting can also cause ketosis, when your body begins to break down fat cells for energy which releases ketones which can also make breath smell.

Bad breath is a common concern for many Muslims during the month of Ramadan, but there are simple steps you can take to combat the problem.

Dr Ridhwaan Haffajee, specialist dental consultant for Ivohealth and director of Matrix Dental Specialists, provides expert tips on how to maintain good oral health during Ramadan:

  1. Regular oral hygiene and prophylaxis: Visit your oral hygienist regularly (every 6 months) or as advised to reduce and prevent accumulation of calculus and professional management of gingivitis.
  2. Brush your teeth correctly at least twice a day: Gently brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes after suhoor (the pre-dawn meal before fasting begins) and  after iftar (the evening meal to break the day’s fast) to remove food debris and plaque as well as before bed.
  3. Clean between the teeth before or after you brush: Tooth brushing alone does not remove all plaque and food particles and those left behind will be a major cause of bad breath. Use floss or interdental brushes to remove plaque and food trapped between your teeth. There are many options available, such as GUM Expanding Floss, or Ortho Floss if you have orthodontic braces. If you don’t like flossing, try GUM Soft-Picks, which are tiny, easy-to-use picks with super-soft rubber bristles or an interdental brush, like the reusable GUM Bi-Direction which has a 90-degree bendable head and antibacterial bristles.
  4. Clean your tongue: The tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Gently use a tongue scraper, such as GUM’s dual action tongue cleaner, which also has a brush, to remove food debris or bacteria on the tongue.
  5. Use alcohol-free mouthwash after you brush: Using an alcohol-free mouthwash is vital as alcohol can dry out the mouth even more. I recommend Dentyl Dual Action because it contains antibacterial CPC and essential oils which hydrate and soothe oral tissue and provide superior plaque-fighting capabilities. Rinsing with Dentyl has been shown to help remove 25 to 50% more plaque than just brushing, the added fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and fight cavities, and is clinically proven to help freshen breath for up to 12 hours.In addition to the tips mentioned above, there are other things you can do to avoid bad breath during fasting in Ramadan, such as:
  • Avoid certain foods: When breaking your fast, avoid foods which can cause bad breath such as onions and garlic.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after your fast: During non-fasting hours, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Aim to drink at least 8-10 cups of water between iftar and suhoor.
  • Limit caffeine and sugary drinks: Try to avoid caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee during non-fasting hours as they have diuretic effects, which can lead to dehydration. Sugary drinks can also contribute to bad breath by promoting bacterial growth in the mouth. Instead, opt for water or herbal teas.

“Following a meticulous oral care routine during fasting can help you prevent bad breath and maintain a healthy mouth. Remember that your oral hygiene is a priority during this time. If you have any concerns or questions about your oral health consult your dentist or oral hygienist,” concludes Dr Haffajee.

For further advice on how to maintain fresh breath and a healthy mouth read this article https://www.ivohealth.co.za/bad-breath/ and to check the freshness of your breath do this simple quiz https://www.ivohealth.co.za/freshbreathcheck/.


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