This year, Ramadan, the Islamic Holy month in which many faithful Muslims engage in a long fast during daylight hours, lasts from June 17 to July 17. Ramadan poses many oral health challenges, and it’s important that people practicing the fast take proper care of their teeth and gums during this time.

Since Philadelphia has one of the top Muslim communities in the US, we thought it helpful to explore some of these issues and help people understand what oral care is and is not generally allowed during fasting.

Religious muslim man praying inside the mosque during Ramadan. Many questions arise with dental care and this time of the year.

Bad Breath during Ramadan

The process of fasting, especially avoiding drinking anything during daylight hours, can change oral bacteria, leading to an odorous breath. Although the popular hadith says, “the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better than the smell of musk in Allah’s Sight,” many people still feel uncomfortable because of their breath during fasting.

If you are uncomfortable with bad breath, you can try rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash. Technically, this does not break the fast as long as you do not swallow any. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with this practice during daylight hours, you will have to commit yourself to thorough hygiene after the fast breaks, including the use of antibacterial cleaning methods, such as the miswak, which can effectively clean your teeth without the need for toothpaste or even added water.

Dental Care During Ramadan

As with mouth rinsing, dental care is often allowed as long as you don’t swallow anything. This means that oral sedation is not allowed, but injectable and topical anesthesia are both allowed.

During a regular cleaning and checkup, your dentist can take special care to ensure you don’t swallow materials. But if you are too uncomfortable with the risk, your dentist can usually reschedule your appointment.

In cases where you’re experiencing a dental emergency such as an infected tooth, breaking the fast is allowed for care. However, people who want to avoid this situation should schedule dental checkups shortly before the fast to avoid unexpected issues arising during Ramadan.