April 2020 signals the start of a period of fasting for many observers of the Islamic faith. The holy month of Ramadan is an important time for many Muslims, and sees believers abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
How do believers ensure that their oral health is maximised during this time? With Dental practices still closed for face to face treatment across the UK due to COVID-19, it is now more important than ever to make sure we protect the health of our teeth and gums. There are a few extra things we can do during these times to make sure we avoid dental issues, yet abide by the principles of the fast.
It seems obvious to say this, but do not forget to brush your teeth after eating, once the fast has been broken. You can use interdental brushes, floss and mouthwash to remove food, and ideally your mouth should be as clean as possible after you have finished eating, and before periods of sleep. Make sure you enter the fast with teeth as clan as they can be.
Think about what foods you are eating
Try and avoid brushing your teeth straight after eating acidic foods, such as orange juice and vinegars, as the acid in the food can soften the teeth and make them more susceptible to erosion. Eating cheese can neutralise this. Avoid sugary foods and especially sugary and fizzy drinks. These increase the risk of caries or tooth decay, and can cause long term problems for your teeth. Tooth decay can lead to fillings being required, and it is always best to try and prevent this.
Can I swallow my saliva?
Saliva is produced constantly in the mouth, and helps the teeth and gums stay healthy. Brushing teeth during the fast is not in itself forbidden, but can create increased saliva. It is not forbidden to swallow your own saliva, and a gentle brush may help to remove plaque. Some believers feel uncomfortable using toothpaste during the fast, due to the minty taste. Mouthwash is definitely not permitted during the fast due to the risk you may swallow some.
Sometimes a dentist may give you a prescription for a dental problem, such as an infection of the gums or teeth. Unfortunately, as your dentist is not able to see you face to face at the moment, prescriptions have become one of the ways that we as dental professionals can keep some problems at bay until we can treat you properly.
If you are ill during Ramadan you may be able to make up the days of fasting later. Your dentist may be able to help you by adjusting the prescription to make it as short a duration as possible. During the fast, taking medicine would be breaking the fast. Please talk to your dentist as there may be ways you can take the medicine outside of the fasting period, to avoid breaking the fast.
Both dentists and pharmacists will be able to help advise you on the safest, and healthiest way to do this for you.