How to Clean a Dog’s Teeth: The Top Tricks and Tips

by | Oct 11, 2019 | Health and Nutrition

Do you brush your dog’s teeth? If the answer is no, then you’re not alone. The American Veterinary Medical Association says only one—yes, one—percent of pet owners brush their animal’s teeth regularly.

Caring for your dog’s teeth is as important as caring for your own. When plaque and tartar build-up on their teeth, your dog is at risk of tooth decay and gum disease–just like you. They can even suffer from infections that leave them whimpering in pain.

Your dog benefits from daily brushing, and it doesn’t need to be a chore. Here’s what every pet owner needs to know about how to clean a dog’s teeth.

Use a Toothbrush and Toothpaste

The American Veterinary Medical Association says that brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the best things you can do to keep their teeth healthy and prevent disease.

That means buying a doggie toothbrush and going to town.

These aren’t the Oral-B brushes you find in the supermarket. Doggie toothbrushes are formulated to help you reach all their teeth. You can get toothbrushes with long handles for dogs with long snouts or soft, gentle brushes that help you care for older dogs or those with sensitive gums.

You also need an excellent pet-friendly toothpaste. These kinds of toothpaste are animal-friendly because they leave out unnecessary ingredients like xylitol or fluoride, which you find in human toothpaste. Both these ingredients can be toxic for your pets, which is why it’s important to never use human toothpaste on your dog’s teeth.

Are you worried about meeting the sharp end of your pet’s teeth? Here’s what you need to know to get started with cleaning your dog’s teeth.

How to Introduce Your Pup to a Toothbrush (and Keep Your Fingers)

Your first step is not to pry your dog’s mouth open and shove a toothbrush in. Don’t do this unless you want to get a nasty bite. And who could blame them for chomping down?

You’d do the same thing!

Instead, start with baby steps–and no toothbrush.

Put some of the toothpaste on your fingers and let your dog lick it. It will introduce him to the smell and taste, so it will seem less foreign when you try it on a brush.

Try this a few times over multiple days to acquaint him with it.

Next, start putting your fingers in your dog’s mouth—yes, really. Lift their lips and let them get used to you touching the area around their mouth. Don’t force it: they will get more comfortable with you over time.

Be patient and always remember to throw in a few “good boys” to let them know that what’s happening is to their benefit.

When it seems like your dog may allow it, introduce the toothbrush. You will start with the outside of their outer teeth, and brush carefully using circular motions. Avoid forcing your way in further; your dog will let you as he becomes more used to the sensation and begins to trust you.

Don’t forget the most essential part of brushing your dog’s treats: pats and praise (lots of them). Your dog should associate the toothbrush with something positive because it is good for them, and positivity makes the process easier for both of you.

Reduce Tartar Between Cleanings

If you have a new puppy, it is much easier to start a healthy brushing routine early. You may even brush daily without a problem. However, it’s not so simple with older dogs who might resist your attempts to clean their teeth.

Among dogs who only get their teeth cleaned once a week, you can use products to help reduce the build-up of tartar on their teeth.

You’ll find dog bones and treats as well as kibbles that reduce or prevent tartar build-up. However, these treats aren’t a good substitute for brushing because they don’t remove the existing tartar. What’s more, the dog treats tend to be high calorie, so you can’t use them regularly without risking your dog’s diet.

While treats are the traditional way of cleaning their teeth, new products hit the market all the time. Your dog can now skip the calories with canine dental sprays, chew toys, or bully sticks.

Visit the Vet

Humans brush their teeth after every meal, but it’s not enough to keep you free from disease long-term. That’s why we go for deep cleaning at the dentist once or twice a year.

Your dog needs the same appointment, but they need to go to the vet.

A vet uses similar technology as what you find at your dentist. However, they also sedate or anesthetize your pet so they can go deep and clean under their gums. 

Cleaning under the gums is essential because you can’t do it at home, and it’s the best way to stop periodontal disease (which leads to tooth loss) before it starts.

Keep Them on a Healthy Diet

Your dog’s diet plays a significant role in their dental health, so you want to choose a kibble that supports their total health.  

Dry kibble not only provides the right nutrition to support their health, but some kibbles also have extra cleaning action to reduce tartar and plaque build-up and freshen their breath.

If you’re unsure what kibble is the best for your dog, talk to your veterinarian who can provide you with more information about your breed’s needs.

Every Dog Owner Should Know How to Clean a Dog’s Teeth

Your dog needs your help to keep their teeth clean and prevent disease. Brushing your teeth may sound like a foreign concept, but it’s incredibly important. If you don’t already use a toothbrush and toothpaste, the best time to start is right now.

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