During the holy month of Ramadhan, Muslims all over the world will be fasting. One of the most common complaints during fasting is the bad breath that people experience. This condition, in medical terms, is called halitosis. What causes bad breath and how can it be prevented?
Causes of bad breath can be broadly classified into local causes and systemic causes. Causative factors within the mouth are termed local causes. Causes due to factors or diseases of the body, such as diabetes, smoking, kidney disease and stomach upset are known as systemic causes. We will be limiting our discussion to local causes only.
Local Causes: Within the human mouth there are numerous kinds of bacteria, which, as by-products, give out sulphides and ammonia which are the main causes of bad breath. Hence the amount of bacteria has to be controlled, and conditions that cause them to thrive have to be eliminated.
These factors are:
- Poor oral hygiene caused by not brushing or improper tooth brushing technique.
- A dirty tongue.
- Cavities in the teeth.
- Gum disease caused by plaque and tartar.
- Dirty dentures, false teeth and other fixed appliances in the mouth.
After having identified the causes, we can now deal with how to prevent bad breath, especially while fasting during the holy month of Ramadhan:
- Brushing one's teeth after every meal, preferably early morning (at Sehri time).
- Flossing one's teeth which mean cleaning between the teeth using special thread called dental floss. Use of toothpicks is not advisable for this purpose.
- Use of a tongue or using a toothbrush to clean the tongue.
- Use of an anti-bacterial mouthwash. A non-alcoholic mouthwash should be used as alcohol causes a dry mouth which can aggravate the problem.
- Cavities in the teeth should be filled promptly to prevent food accumulation within them.
- Removal of tartar on teeth by a dentist at least once every six months.
- Drink at least 2-3 glasses of water at Sehri time.
A bad stomach can also cause bad breath so one would have to check on his diet during the holy month of Ramadhan to prevent a stomach upset and halitosis.
Foul-smelling mouths are offensive to other people therefore it is important to spend some time and follow the simple precautions and methods mentioned to prevent this problem.
Islam urges its followers to be clean, decent, and pleasant in their appearance and smell. In this respect, you can have a mouth wash and gargle it but be careful not to allow the water goes into your stomach as best as you can. During Holy Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) lifetime, he (pbuh) and his Companions (Sahabah) used to have Siwak (Miswak or Tooth stick) to keep their mouth fresh and clean.
Many people avoid brushing their teeth during the day in Ramadhan. This is a mistake, since there is no contradiction between observing the fast during Ramadhan and brushing one's teeth. Moreover, Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Were it not for the hardship that I would be placing upon my people, I would have ordered them to engage in Siwak for every prayer." [Sahih al-Bukhari (887) and Sahih Muslim (252)]
We must understand that the word "Siwak" does not just refer to the tree branches that are used as tooth sticks, but to the act of brushing the teeth itself. It is derived from the verb sak, meaning to rub, clean, buff, or polish.
So, we should keep our mouth and body clean and free of any bad or horrible smell, especially when you are working with a non-Muslim who may accuse Islam or insult Muslims because of Ramadhan fasting. Allah says: "Keep you duty to Allah (SWT) as far as you can." (Holy Quran, 64:16)
Note: Some people assume that brushing the teeth while fasting during the month of Ramadhan is discouraged on the basis of the hadith where Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, the Khaluf of a fasting person is more pleasant to Allah (SWT) than the scent of musk." [Sahih al-Bukhari (1893) and Sahih Muslim (1151)]
The assumption that this hadith discourages brushing one's teeth while fasting is incorrect. Because the Khaluf is the smell that comes from the stomach when it is empty of food and is not a smell emanating from the mouth.