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How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth

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How often do you brush your dog’s teeth? If you answered rarely or never, it’s time to brush up on dog dental care. Regular tooth brushing, which you can learn about in our Infographic [see below], combined with at-home checks and annual dental cleanings at your veterinarian’s office, can help your dog have a bright, healthy smile and avoid issues like periodontal disease. Whether you have an Alaskan Malamute, Great Dane, or Toy Poodle, it’s crucial that you take care of your pup’s pearly whites.

About Periodontal Disease

According to the American Veterinary Dental College®, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease by the time they are three years old.* Periodontal disease is an infection that can cause the loss of teeth and jaw bone. The infection can also spread throughout your dog’s body, causing damage to vital internal organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque build-up, which hardens into tartar and sets the stage for infection. Signs of periodontal disease include persistent bad breath, loose or missing teeth, and inflamed or bleeding gums. You may also notice a loss of appetite, difficulty chewing food, and sensitivity in and around your dog’s mouth.

small fluffy dog having their teeth brushed

Dog Dental Care 101

Periodontal disease isn’t reversible, but it is preventable with proper dog dental care. Here are three things you can do to help your dog’s mouth stay healthy.

1. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth may sound like a chore and, if your pup is anything like mine, it may not be his favorite activity either, but it’s essential for removing food particles and plaque. The steps in our Infographic, along with these tips on dog teeth cleaning, can help you brush like a pro.

Dog Teeth Cleaning Tips:

  • Use a toothbrush designed for dogs, which will be smaller and softer than an adult human toothbrush. You can also choose a toothbrush you wear over your finger.
  • Never use human toothpaste since it contains ingredients like fluoride and xylitol that can be harmful to dogs, who tend to swallow toothpaste as you brush. Pick dog-friendly toothpaste that comes in appealing canine flavors, like chicken.
  • Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day or, at least, a couple of times a week. You can use tooth brushing as a time to bond with your dog.
  • Hold the brush at a 45° angle to get at the gum line area and clean in small circular motions.
  • Take your time and work on one part of the mouth at a time.

With practice and patience, your dog may even come to enjoy the process. If you’re having problems getting the job done, talk to your veterinarian for advice on how to brush a dog’s teeth.

2. Do a Weekly Home Check

Take a good look at your dog’s teeth and gums at least once a week. Find a time when your dog is relaxed, such as after a long walk, and have your dog face you. Gently lift their lips so you can see the gums and teeth. If you notice signs of periodontal disease or other potential problems, such as lumps on the gums or discoloration of the gums or teeth, reach out to your veterinarian.

3. Schedule an Annual Cleaning

Even if you take great care of your dog’s teeth at home, you need to set up annual dog teeth cleaning sessions at your veterinarian’s office. Your veterinarian can:

  • Safely scrape away plaque, which can’t be brushed away at home.
  • Closely and thoroughly examine the teeth and gums, including areas below the gum line.
  • Polish the teeth and remove microscopic scratches. 

You can sign up for preventive care coverage for a little more each month that includes an annual dental cleaning with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Learn more about dog insurance. Since yearly dental cleanings and weekly teeth brushings are necessary for your dog’s best health, these are some added expenses that dog parents should account for when adopting a pup. Do you know how much it costs to have a dog?

Before taking your pup for their dental cleaning, it’s important first to be established with a veterinarian. If this is your pet’s first veterinary visit, learn what to expect.

Anesthesia for Dental Cleaning

The American Veterinary Dental College recommends anesthesia for professional dog teeth cleaning because dogs can’t understand the need to sit still and stay calm during a dental procedure as we do. While anesthesia always carries risks, the pros outweigh the cons for most dogs.

Anesthesia not only makes the experience less stressful for your dog, but it can also make it less painful. In addition, it allows the veterinarian to clean below the gum line and closely examine each tooth in your dog’s mouth.

Chew Toys for Dog Dental Care

Offer your dog safe chew toys and chew bones to gnaw on. They can provide your dog with an appropriate outlet to satisfy that instinct to chew (which can save you a few shoes!) and help strengthen teeth and gums.

Be sure anything you give your dog to chew on is safe and not too hard. Tough objects can cause damage to the soft tissues of the mouth and loosen or fracture teeth.

If you’re interested in dog insurance coverage that can cover dental injuries like fractures, get a free quote now. You can also check out our other dog safety Infographic, which lays out the dangers of chocolate for dogs.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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