Doggy Dental Care: A Guide to Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

It’s easy to forget about your dog’s dental care. When we have bad breath, we do everything we can to eliminate the order. But in dogs, bad breath is thought to be a given. Over 90% of dog owners don’t brush their dog’s teeth daily. This is why canine periodontal disease is the most common disease to affect dogs, with two-thirds of dogs over the age of 3 showing signs of periodontal disease. It’s essential to brush your dog’s teeth and to start young.

Choosing a toothpaste for your dog

Brushing a dog’s teeth may seem weird at first. But in the short and long run, you and your pup will be very glad that you did.

Dogs need special toothpaste that is made specifically for them. Some toothpaste is safe for cats, as well. You should never use human toothpaste on a dog. Unlike human toothpaste, dog toothpaste is made to be safe for swallowing. So you don’t have to worry about rinsing, just brushing.

Most dog toothpaste is quite similar to one another, but there are a few factors you’ll want to consider. Age and health are the two most important factors. If your dog is a puppy, you’ll want to get toothpaste for puppies. If your dog already struggles with dental problems, you probably want an enzymatic toothpaste. And if it’s your first time brushing, you may want a starter kit that includes a toothbrush.

Otherwise, the deciding factor should be whether your dog likes the taste. This might mean trying a few different kinds of toothpaste before finding one your dog loves.

If you need help deciding on a specific toothpaste, DogFriendly.com has put together a handy list of our favorite toothpaste for dogs.

How to brush a dog’s teeth

Brushing a dog’s teeth is not too different from brushing your own. But those first few times can be a challenge. Check out this TikTok for a live demonstration of good brushing technique:

You can see how easy it is to brush your dog’s teeth once you’ve built up trust.

As Dr. Christman demonstrates, you’ll want to practice flipping your dog’s lip. Gently pull on your dog’s upper lip to expose their teeth. This makes them comfortable with touching, and you must flip the lip to brush, so it’s important to practice first.

Once they trust you to touch their mouth, you’ll want to bring in the toothpaste. Let your dog inspect the bottle and sniff the paste before applying. You might even let them do a taste test first.

When it’s time to brush, apply a couple of dollops to the toothbrush. Flip your dog’s lip and gently start brushing. Move in a circular motion, and go over the gums, too. Start on one side of the mouth and then brush the other. Do not fret if you can’t get the inner side of the teeth. After, you’ll brush the front teeth. Fifteen seconds is good for each side. Brushing shouldn’t be an all-day activity.

In addition to daily brushing, you should also schedule a yearly dental cleaning with your vet. 

The no-brush method

Brushing is not the only option for dental health. If your dog does not cooperate, then there are always no-brush toothpaste. With a no-brush toothpaste, you apply the paste to your dog’s teeth and let them lick it up—their tongue does all the hard work for you. Brushing will always be the most effective way to clean teeth, but it’s good to know there’s a plan B.

The dangers of not brushing

The consequences of not brushing add up. Plaque builds up over time and can turn to tartar when not properly cleaned. This leads to all sorts of problems, like gum inflammation and disease, tooth decay, or worse. In dire cases, the tooth might need extracting.

For humans, the most common dental problems are tooth decay and cavities. These problems affect dogs, too. But the most common dental problem for dogs is canine periodontal disease.

Canine periodontal disease is the infection of the periodontium, which is the tissue that surrounds the tooth. This includes the gums and surrounding bones. The disease progresses over time and destroys the tooth. Affected teeth will become loose and can fall out over time. The “bad breath” we usually associate with dogs is often the first sign of periodontal disease.

Dental problems start young. Periodontal affects over two-thirds of dogs over the age of three. Once the damage starts, it can be hard or impossible to reverse. Not to mention the pain that dental disease can inflict. Unfortunately, the signs are not easy to spot, and most dogs suffer in silence.

Dog toothpaste is not always cheap, but thankfully there are budget options out there. In the long run, 20 dollars on toothpaste every few months will be a lot cheaper than the cost of dental surgery.

The bottom line

Dental care is an essential part of caring for any pet. You should brush your dog’s teeth every day and start the practice while they’re young. If you wait until your dog begins to exhibit signs of dental problems, then it is likely already too late. 

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t been taking care of your dog’s teeth. Unfortunately, education around doggy dental care is very lacking, and even the most responsible dog owners might not know that they have to brush their dog’s teeth. Toothbrushing comes naturally to us, but the toothbrushing truth isn’t always obvious when it comes to dogs.

There is nothing you can do to change the past, only change the future. If you already brush your dog’s teeth, then way to go! And if you haven’t, there’s no better time to start than now.

Tyler Kupcho
Author: Tyler Kupcho

Animal lover, proud husky parent. Writing Intern at DogFriendly.com

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