The Importance of Brushing Your Dogs Teeth
I am not going to lie – brushing your dogs teeth isn’t the most pleasant of experiences – especially if your dog isn’t used to having things shoved into his mouth. But it is easier than clipping your dogs nails, at least around here it is.
So it’s not going to be the highlight of your day but brushing your dogs teeth should be done regularly. It’s a part of grooming that’s often overlooked. And it’s why so many dogs end up having expensive dental cleanings done professionally.
While daily brushing doesn’t guarantee your dog will never get dental problems it’s the easiest way to prevent the majority of them. A little prevention goes a long way – especially when it comes to oral care.
Oral Care Is Important To Your Dogs Overall Health
If you want to help your dog keep his nice pearly whites you can brush his teeth regularly to help prevent tartar, gingivitis, and plaque. Luckily for dogs they’re not as prone to cavities as humans. Prevention by practicing good oral hygiene at home can lead to less cost at the veterinarian’s office in the long run.
The average cost in the U.S. for a dog’s dental cleaning is about $400-700 with anesthesia. You can check out your local professionals to see if any of them offer anesthesia free dental cleaning, it’s a lot less expensive.
It’s estimated that 85% of dogs over the age of 5 are suffering from periodontal disease, which develops when food particles and bacteria collect along the gum line and form soft deposits called plaque. The plaque turns into tartar and if it isn’t removed the gums become inflamed. Periodontal disease is irreversible, it’s never too early to start working on some good oral health habits for your dog.
Don’t rely on your kibble to do the job for you either. Although it’s widely assumed that kibble help keeps your dogs teeth clean it’s never been proven. It may help to remove some of the plaque by the gum line but it’s not going to do anything once there’s a buildup of tartar. Most dry dog foods actually contain a higher percentage of refined carbohydrates which have been known to cause plaque and tartar levels. So maybe dry dog food helps, maybe it doesn’t. You can’t depend on your dog’s food alone to help prevent dental problems.
There are a few chew toys that can help prevent soft tartar build up and strengthen teeth.
The only scientifically proven way to remove plaque and tartar from your dogs teeth is good old fashioned daily brushing combined with routine tartar removal from a professional.
The Materials Needed
A Dog Toothbrush – Don’t share your own toothbrush with Fido (although you can use a human toothbrush). They make tooth brushes just for dogs. You can get them in various sizes and colors just like human ones. The only two real difference in options are going to be the traditional tooth brush or a finger brush. The finger brush is just a plastic toothbrush that fits over your finger with little dental sponges. If you don’t like either of these you could always go with a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger.
Tip: I haven’t found a doggie toothbrush I love, I actually prefer using human ones. (and they seem to do a better job than those rubber finger ones)
Dog Toothpaste – They also sell many kinds of doggie toothpaste at the pet store or the vet’s office. They come in appealing flavors such as chicken, liver, and peanut butter. Don’t use human toothpaste for your dog; they could very well get an upset stomach after swallowing all that paste. Some people choose to make their own doggie toothpaste at home using baking soda. If you’re comfortable doing that it can be OK, just make sure your dog doesn’t swallow a lot of it, baking soda can cause electrolyte imbalances. We use Petrodex beef flavor, but there are a lot of options to choose from.
How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
If you have a puppy that’s excellent news. They’re probably going to hate it at first but it means you are working with more of a ‘blank slate’ so to speak. You can gradually ease your new puppy into getting used to having his teeth cleaned.
If you have an older dog I wish you well. It’s not impossible to get an older dog used to daily teeth brushing but it can be quite a challenge. If your dog becomes aggressive or tries to bite you There are a few dogs that won’t have anything to do with it, so if you try and don’t succeed don’t blame yourself. Sometimes you really do have to leave it to the professionals (and the help of anesthesia).
During any of these steps it’s recommended to use lots of yummy treats, make this activity something he looks forward to.
- Get your dog used to having their mouth and snout handled. Don’t get out the toothbrush just yet. Check to make sure your dog seems completely fine with you around his mouth and snout. You’re going to start practicing some circular motions around your dogs mouth to get him used to all handling. Some people practice this once or twice a day in order to ensure the dog has complete trust in the exercise.
- The next step is getting your dog used to the smell and taste of the toothpaste. You can place a little bit on your finger and let them check it out.
- Show your dog the toothbrush, let him sniff it before for a minute before you begin. Put some toothpaste on the toothbrush or finger brush and start doing some circular motions on your dogs teeth.
- If your dog is comfortable with the brushing you can move onto the proper brushing technique; hold the brush at a 45 degree angle and work in small, circular motions on your dogs teeth. Do small portions of the mouth at a time, making sure he’s staying calm and tolerating the brushing.
- To get up near the gum line you’re going to need to lift your dog’s lips in certain areas and do some downward strokes to remove the hard to reach plaque.
Even with daily brushing it’s recommended that your dog see a professional once a year for a dental exam. With a bit of preventative oral care you can increase the likelihood of your dog leaving his yearly exam with a decent bill of health and less costs associated with professional dental care.
Here’s an excellent video from Pyramid Vet Hospital showing the proper brushing technique: