Teeth Cleaning for Dogs: Is It A Good Idea?
How to brush a dog's teeth? Is there a wrong way, is there a right way? Do you need to invest in an expensive dog toothpaste and dog toothbrush? Do you need special dog teeth cleaning equipment? Well - regardless of what toothbrush/toothpaste you use, the most important thing is that you actually know the right way to brush your dog's teeth.
And to answer the title’s question - yes! Caring for your dog’s dental health is definitely a great idea! Here we’ll learn about the basics of teeth cleaning for dogs, the best dog toothbrush and toothpaste to buy and overall teeth care for dogs.
Of all the things that dog parents might not like so much about having dogs - it’s bad dog breath, right? Don’t get us wrong, though. We know you absolutely adore your doggies. They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they’re super fun to have around at home… but a disgusting case of dog breath? It’s just not your most favourite thing in the world about your furry best friend!
That’s why dog teeth cleaning is simply one of the most basic hygiene habits you need to build with your dog from the time they grow their first tooth as pups until they become adult dogs.
Not just so you can enjoy their minty, fresh breath but so that they can enjoy a long, happy life, too.
That’s because good oral health means that your dog is in tiptop shape. When you’re keeping your cute canine from dog dental disease, you’re helping prevent:
🦴🐶 Oral pain
🦴🐶 Gum infections
🦴🐶 Plaque buildup
🦴🐶 Loss of teeth
🦴🐶 Weakened jaw bone
Plaque buildup can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream and making their way to internal organs which can then make your dog very sick - or in the most extreme cases - death.
And the best, easiest and most cost-effective way to ensure good health is to learn how to brush your dog’s teeth. Don’t worry - we’ve got the basics down for you. All you need to do is read this article and start putting our dog teeth cleaning tips into practice right after.
Why Is Dental Health Important for Dogs?
A healthy mouth means a healthy pet and avoiding problems with their teeth will keep your dog in great shape.
Unfortunately, many pet owners don't realise the impact poor dental health can have on their dog's overall health - both physically and mentally.
Latest research shows that dogs with poor dental health are far more likely to suffer from general illness, as well as psychological problems such as stress, depression and behavioural issues.
If you don’t take care of your dog’s teeth and mouth, over time plaque will build up on your dog's teeth and gums, leading to tartar buildup. This can lead to problems like gingivitis, tooth decay and even gum disease. Gum disease can be very painful for your dog and make it difficult for them to eat normally and may even lead to further health complications down the line.
With this in mind, it's vital that you look after your dog's teeth to keep them healthy and happy.
In addition, dog oral health problems are no walk in the park for your dog either. If they develop a toothache, they’ll be in so much pain and discomfort.
Symptoms of Dog Dental Disease
If caught early, your dog’s oral health problems are easy to treat. If left alone to progress to the point of extreme pain, it can become difficult (and costly) to treat. This is why it's important to spot any problems with your dog's teeth as soon as possible.
Here’s a quick list of telltale signs and symptoms of dog dental disease:
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Discomfort when eating or chewing
- Difficulty eating or chewing
- Reluctance to accept treats or toys that could normally be chewed on
- Inflamed gums (gingivitis) or discharge around the mouth (advanced gingivitis)
- Red, swollen tonsils
- Canker sores inside the mouth or nose
- Swelling on or around the face or neck
- Loss of appetite for food and water
- Broken teeth which cause difficulty eating or drooling
Treatment for dog dental disease is expensive and time-consuming, but it's also necessary if you want your dog to get better and remain healthy. If you notice any of the symptoms above, take your dog to the vet right away. They will provide the best possible treatment if they diagnose any dental problems.
Is my dog at risk for dental disease?
Small dogs are more likely than large dogs to suffer from dental disease. Large breeds with deep, narrow mouths, such as bulldogs, tend to be at higher risk than other breeds but any dog can suffer if left untreated.
Dogs that eat hard food or bones are also at higher risk because they're more likely to chip or break their teeth on the food. For example, the stress of chewing hard biscuits can grind away enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to bacteria and decay. Even then, soft foods can also cause dental problems which is why it’s best to maintain a good balance of feeding your dog both hard/soft foods.
💡 Petz Park Tip: Remember that not all symptoms of a dog’s dental problems are easy to spot. This is why coming in for annual checkups are important so your vet can make a more thorough dental examination.
No matter how well cared for your dog is, dental disease is bound to happen at some point. This is why, just like in almost any case of illnesses in our pets, prevention is always better than cure.
This is where dog teeth cleaning comes in. It might be a bit challenging to start and just like all routines, something that you must stick to every day. As soon as you get the hang of it - it’s easy, breezy.
Not sure exactly how to go about brushing your dog’s teeth? Head on over to the next section.
How do I brush my dog’s teeth?
For successful dog brushing, you’re going to need the 3 T’s - Time, Tools & Treats.
Here’s how to put those three into action.
TIMEBeing a pet parent, time is always one of the most valuable things you can offer. Time for walks, time for play, time for rest and of course - time for basic hygiene care.
When you begin to brush your dog’s teeth, pick the calmest time of the day that’s perfect for dog teeth cleaning. There’s no ideal time in particular but whatever works best for your dog. Try to stick with the same schedule every day so your dog knows what to expect and will be more prepared.
Observe your dog’s routine for a day or two. Most dogs are active in the morning while some are more playful in the afternoon. Pick that calm time in between when they’re most relaxed. Most pet owners choose to brush their dog’s teeth just before nap time.
If your chosen time doesn’t work, you can always experiment and change it if needed.
Apart from that, time here also means - take your time! It might be a little challenging to learn how to brush your dog’s teeth but with time, it will get better and easier.
Now that you know the best time to brush your dog’s teeth - it’s time to buy a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste.
🚨 Petz Park Alert: Never use a human toothbrush or human toothpaste on dogs. Human toothpaste may have ingredients that can harm or poison a dog while human toothbrushes are simply not designed for a dog’s teeth and mouth.
So, how do you choose the best toothbrush and toothpaste for your dog?
The best way to choose a dog toothbrush is by looking at your dog’s breed, age and size as well as the size/type of jaw they have. Always choose a toothbrush with an angled head to ensure it will go through nooks, crannies and the curves of your dog’s jaw easily and painlessly.
Your experience is also something you need to consider. If you’re new to dog teeth cleaning, start with a finger toothbrush for dogs. It will help you get used to moving around in your dog’s mouth and practice brushing.
Younger puppies need softer bristles that won’t irritate their gums as much as an adult dog’s would.
Dog toothpastes are already formulated with high-quality and safe ingredients. However, here’s what you need to take note of:
- Pick a toothpaste that contains calcium carbonate for its abrasive properties. The calcium carbonate will help to remove accumulated plaque from your pet's teeth and freshen its breath at the same time.
- Choose one with a pleasant flavour or flavouring to make your dog more likely to accept the product without complaint during the brushing process. Dog toothpastes contain flavours that dogs love including beef, poultry, fish or malt. The flavour is also said to aid in oral health because it encourages your pet to let you brush its teeth.
If you have concerns, you can always consult with your vet and send them the ingredients to ensure the toothpaste you’re looking at is appropriate for your dog.
You can also look into creating homemade dog toothpastes. You can find lots of recipes online and experiment on two or three variations to see what your dog likes best.
Whatever type of dog toothpaste you choose, introduce it to your dog first before brushing so you’ll know that they actually like the flavours.
For best recommendations, consult with your vet. They’ll be able to recommend the dog best toothbrush and toothpaste brands for you.
Unlike reward treats that may damage your dog’s teeth (if not given in proper amounts), dog dental treats are treats made specifically to clean your dog's teeth.
Most dog dental treats (sometimes known as dental dog chews) contain ingredients that help to clean and whiten your dog's teeth. For example, they may contain baking soda, which helps to remove stains, as well as ingredients that fight plaque and tartar.
In addition to this benefit, many dog dental treats also freshen breath. As great dog treats are, they are not substitutes for actual dog teeth cleaning but to be given to dogs before daily brushing or after brushing as a healthy treat/reward. If you truly care for your dog’s oral health (and overall health for that matter), you should both brush your dog’s teeth and offer dental treats too.
New to giving dog dental treats? Here are a few tried and tested tips:
- Veterinarians normally do not recommend giving puppies younger than 6 months old dental treats. Even puppies over 6 months old need dental treats specifically made for pups.
- Just like brushing your dog’s teeth, you need to choose the right time to give dental treats. For a treat to be effective, you need to give it to your dog at a time that will allow him to start chewing it for a period of time.
- Dog dental treats can range in price. You can find good dental treats at every price point. If you want to use them daily, look for ones that are more economical (but still effective).
- Some dental treats are made specifically for large or small dogs. Others are made for all sizes, but they may not provide the same benefits if your dog is too small or large.
Once you have your 3 T’s, it’s time for the actual brushing. Here are some tips:
- Once you have your tools ready, get settled and comfortable with your dog at a relaxing spot in your home. You can also brush your dog’s teeth outside - whatever works!
- Some pet owners prefer brushing their dog’s teeth near a bathtub or sink.
- It’s best to stay on the floor or on a stool, whatever works best for the type of dog you have.
- Gently lift your dog’s top lip and touch the head of the toothbrush to your dog’s teeth and then do the same to the bottom lip/teeth.
- Use easy, slow and gentle movements to avoid causing injury. Just like brushing your own teeth, brush from front to back for the top teeth and then back to front for the bottom teeth.
- Keep praising your dog as you brush and then reward your dog after.
- It’s best to brush your dog’s teeth daily but if that isn’t realistic given your time and schedule, daily dental treats, dog chew toys or dog toothbrush toys will work well even without brushing.
- Don’t forget to give a healthy treat or reward after!
Petz Park Tip: Aside from brushing your dog’s teeth at home and giving dog dental treats, you can also opt for professional brushing and cleaning at the vet. The cost for dog teeth cleaning however is quite expensive.
Dental care from the vet can cost anywhere from $300 to $700 and even more for periodontal disease or tooth extractions. You can check your local pet insurance provider as some may provide standalone pet dental insurance coverage if your pet meets certain qualifications.
When should I start brushing my dog’s teeth?
A dog’s deciduous teeth begin erupting at around 3 to 5 weeks old but it’s normally recommended to brush your dog’s teeth starting around 6 months onwards. Brushing at an early age also means you can keep track of teeth growth.
If you notice teeth that are growing in the wrong places or you notice something that just isn’t right - it’s easier and more cost-effective to get treatment earlier rather than later.
How to clean my dog’s teeth without brushing?
There are lots of ways to reduce the buildup of tartar and plaque without having to brush your dog’s teeth. However, note that these aren’t supposed to replace brushing.
Here are some ways to clean your teeth without brushing:
- Buy a dog dental spray at the pet store
- Make doggy biscuits at home
- Buy a dog toothbrush toy
- Buy a dog chew toy
- Mix coconut oil with dog food (coconut oil is a bacteria killer)
- Feed your dog dry food (dry food is abrasive and scrape away tartar/plaque)
- Add Ascophyllum Nodosum Seaweed (a natural teeth cleaner for dogs and cats, too) to your pet’s food
- Try using dog dental wipes
- Give dogs raw bones to chew on (natural teeth cleaner for dogs, too!)
These teeth cleaning methods can provide your dog with teeth that will dazzle you and your vet with a healthy smile. Many of these tips are simple and easy for you to perform on your own—for the low cost of a dog toothbrush and some doggy-friendly toothpaste. Best of all, these tips can help save $$$ on the cost of professional dog teeth cleaning and ensure that you have a happy, healthy pooch.
*This information is intended as general information only. It was not written or intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please seek professional guidance from your pet’s veterinarian before taking any action that could affect your pet’s health.