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Dentists observing Ramadan: what you need to know

Picture of lanterns and the Charity for all Dentists logo depicting observance of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, dedicated to fasting, prayer, reflection, and community.

We wanted to go beyond simply wishing our dental community a spiritually uplifting Ramadan to all those observing the month.

This is why we had conversations with dentists to fully understand what Ramadan means to them, how their experiences differ, and what we might be mindful of to help support colleagues during Ramadan.

Have a conversation

Just like any other faith, Muslims may observe Ramadan to varying degrees.

Everyone’s observance of Ramadan will be individual which is why Practice Managers should have a conversation with colleagues about how they might like to be supported through the holy month.

“I think the key is that Leaders and Managers have a good relationship with their staff and are skilled at having open conversations about whatever support they might need. They will then be able to fully embrace, include and accommodate all aspects of people’s lives and not just religious observance.”

You can read about Shafaq and Sarra’s experiences and how their workplace supports them here:

Being aware of and respectful of the practices of Muslim colleagues observing Ramadan is important in fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment in your dental setting. Below are examples of what to be mindful of.

Fasting during daylight hours

Not all Muslim colleagues will fast through Ramadan.

I struggle with not fasting but remind myself that those with health conditions do not have to fast and that there is a fasting of the mind & spirit too.

When they do fast, they will abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and even chewing gum from dawn until sunset.

Being mindful of this, it’s considerate to avoid scheduling lunch meetings, and offering food or drink while they are fasting.

“I remember at one of my dental practices, the dental nurses would offer me a cup of tea or a glass of water when it was time to break my fast. It was a lovely supportive gesture. They were also aware of the sunset times and knew when my fast was coming to an end.”

Some people may like to start work later to accommodate attendance at Suhoor (the meal consumed early in the morning before they begin fasting), while others might like to leave early or promptly at the end of the working day to break their fast at Iftar.

Prayer times

Muslims are required to pray five times a day. During Ramadan, some may also participate in additional prayers.

Respecting the need for breaks to fulfill prayer obligations, and providing a quiet space, if possible, is appreciated.

Colleagues have been understanding of prayer times and I’ve been able to make sure there is a quiet space in my practice where I won’t be disturbed and I’m able to pray. We have been able to schedule patient appointments with good notice and outside of these times.”

Varying energy levels

As the day progresses, individuals fasting might experience lower energy levels or fatigue due to the lack of food and water.

“The impact on work is the lack of sleep and how it can impact on your concentration. Also, when you’re hypoglycaemic there is a risk of getting a bit ratty. The challenge is to remain a good person in the face of adversity when you’re going without food.”

Understanding and empathy towards any changes in productivity or the need for breaks is helpful.

“People might not be at their best in the afternoon. Perhaps it would be worth considering putting complex treatments in the morning and more simple procedures, or even telephone clinics or administrative tasks in the afternoon. This would be really supportive.”

Ramadan events

Some Muslim employees might observe additional religious practices or attend community events after work or on weekends. Understanding their commitments and being flexible with work hours or deadlines can be supportive.

“There is a strong sense of serving the community in the holy month….with a focus on community events and also families gathering to break fast together, the social calendar can get very busy.

Eid celebrations

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a festive day where families meet and celebrate the event together.

This is a significant holiday, and acknowledging it, or even allowing time off for those who wish to celebrate, is greatly appreciated.

“The last 10 nights are regarded as holier nights and are particularly important. People may pray and gather for longer hours into the night. Additional annual leave may be required through this time.”

Being considerate and accommodating of these aspects can greatly contribute to a respectful and inclusive workplace.

“Some of my working days can be 8 am-8 pm which isn’t workable through Ramadan and so I tend to take the majority of my annual leave through this time. However, if there were discussions about reasonable adjustments that could be made then I might not need to do that.”

Simple gestures of understanding and flexibility can make a significant difference to colleagues observing Ramadan.

For more information, there are several articles below.

The Charity for all Dentists proactively supports the financial and emotional needs of dental students, dentists, and their dependents. It has been supporting the dental community for over 140 years.

Other articles of interest

What is Ramadan?

National NHS Muslim Network – Ramadan and Eid Guidance

Wellbeing Support for the Dental Team

Six self-care tips for working through Ramadan

4 ways to support your colleagues observing Ramadan

A complete guide to Ramadan in 2024

Reflecting on Ramadan, faith, and workplace support for doctors

Supporting Muslims at work during Ramadan

Ramadan factsheet

National Inclusion Week

Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association UK

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Dr Austin Banner

Vice-Chairman

  • Trustee since 2010
  • Dental speciality – Retired consultant Orthodontist
  • County – Southern Counties
  • I am a Past President of the BDA Southern Counties Branch with extensive experience in committee, management, teaching, and training.

Dr Peter Crooks

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2020
  • Dental Speciality – General Dental Practitioner
  • County – Antrim, Northern Ireland
  • I am the representative of the Principal Executive Committee of the BDA on the BDA Benevolent Fund Board. I hope to continue and foster the close working relationship between the Charity and the BDA, of whose members are also members of the charity. I’m also a Director and Secretary of a charitable company – CHEERS Youth Centre

Dr Molly Deykin

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2020
  • Dental speciality – General Dental Practitioner
  • County – London
  • I have been involved in student support groups and I was elected British Dental Student Association President. I worked with the Sands Cox Charity when I was the Dental School Society Vice-President. After graduating I was the Foundation Dentist Representative on the BDA Young Dentists Committee.

Dr Allan Franklin

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2003
  • Dental speciality – General Dental Practitioner for 35 years
  • County – Oldham/ Rochdale
  • I am the Chairman of BDA Oldham & Rochdale Section (and previous Secretary). Chairman for the E.Lancs & E Cheshire Branch of BDA in charge of section regeneration. Previous Chairman of British Society for Dental Hypnosis (as it was then) and involved in Local Dental Committees.

Dr Alex Gormley

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2020
  • Dental Speciality – Academic Clinical Fellow at the University of Bristol
  • County – Bristol
  • I have worked in primary dental care and a maxillofacial unit since graduation. I am continuing my dental core training alongside academic training at the University of Bristol. I also serve as the Early Career Representative as an invited board member at the FDS at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Dr Chris Hayward

Treasurer

  • Trustee since 2013
  • Dental speciality – Associate Specialist in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Lead Clinician Dental Emergency Department Newcastle Dental Hospital, Honorary  Clinical Lecturer Newcastle Dental School
  • County – Newcastle/ Northern Counties
  • I have been active in the BDA at Section, Branch, and National Levels. I was a member of the Rep Board/Body; a former member of the BDA PEC; a Director of International Affairs; and the previous BDA Board.

Dr Philip Henderson

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2006
  • Dental Speciality-Principal Practice Owner and in General Dental Service for 37 years.
  • County – Antrim, Northern Ireland
  • I have been a Church Elder for 34 years with pastoral care responsibility Local Dental Adviser for Dental Protection including attending GDC Hearings and Probity work in NHS Current member “Probing Dental Stress” group in N.I.
  • Past: LDC Chair, N.I.DPC Chair, Northern Ireland Branch BDA President, Director of the BDA’s PEC for two terms

Dr Ros Keeton

Chairman

  • Trustee since 2008
  • Dental Specialty – Leadership and management of Dental Services
  • County – Shropshire
  • I am an experienced NHS Chief Executive and health care leader who combines a dental background with substantial leadership experience. I am also a Chairman of a specialist hospice and EOL charity Compton Care. I am a passionate and committed advocate for dentists in distress.

Dr Stuart Robson

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2006
  • Dental speciality – A General Dental Practitioner
  • County– North Yorkshire
  • Former President of BDA 1999- 2000, previous Vice-Chairman of BDA Council and also Dental Services Committee. On behalf of North Yorkshire LDC, was organiser and lead of the North Yorkshire PASS (Practitioner Advice and Support Scheme) preventing some dentist with problems having dire financial and professional difficulties.

Dr Bill Creedon

Trustee

  • Trustee since 2014
  • Dental speciality – GDP
  • County – Hampshire
  • I have been in general practice for over 20 years as a practice owner in Southampton. The last four years I have been also working at Kings College, London. I am Chair of the BDA’s Wessex branch and Vice Chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight LDC.