When you have a pet dog, there are many things you must do to care for him…
Feed and water him. Play with him and make sure he gets enough exercise. Ensure he regularly visits the vet and stays up to date on his vaccinations.
But did you know you should also have your dog's teeth cleaned on a regular basis?
Many pet owners are clueless to this, and have no idea what it entails.
Teeth cleaning by a veterinarian
At least once a year you should take your furry friend in to the veterinarian for a comprehensive cleaning. The doctor will take a look at your dog's mouth to get an idea of your dog's dental health and to determine if there are any specific issues or trouble spots that need to be addressed during the cleaning.
The doctor will probably draw some blood from your pet to check for underlying health issues related to dental problems, as well as to help them determine if your dog can be put under anesthesia.
If everything comes back good, they will then anesthetize your dog with a general anesthesia as well as a local anesthetic in the mouth. They do this so that they can work quickly and efficiently, and it also causes less pain for your dog allowing your friend to recover fast.
While your dog is anesthetized the doctor will take x-rays of his mouth. This will help them to identify any problems hiding beneath the gums. Then the doctor will clean your dog's gums. It is important to clean the gum line well, because this is where bacteria hide away and periodontal disease starts.
Then the doctor will de-scale your dog's teeth, scraping away the plaque and tartar buildup. Finally, your dog's teeth are polished which will help prevent bacteria from collecting on the teeth.
Even after all of that, you may be surprised to find out that there is more you need to do between cleanings to help your dog maintain a healthy mouth – but there is!
How often to clean your dog's teeth
To help your dog's mouth stay healthy in between veterinary cleanings, it is imperative that you keep his teeth clean at home.
Regular brushings help to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. You want to avoid this problem because not only does it lead to bad doggy breath, but it can also lead to decaying teeth or gum disease that can result in health problems that are far more serious.
You should clean your dog's teeth as often as you can, ideally you would do this every day. There is no shortage of products to help you in this task, from toothbrushes to pastes to chew toys that can help you and your furry friend keep his mouth clean.
Don't forget though, even if you stay on top of your dog's tooth brushing at home, you cannot skip out on his yearly veterinary dental visits. These visits give your dog's doctor a chance to take a thorough look at your dog's oral health as well as do an in-depth cleaning to prevent dental diseases.
How to brush your dog's teeth
Now that you know why it's important and how often you should be doing it, let's take a look at how to actually go about cleaning your dog's teeth at home.
1. Choosing a toothbrush
The first thing you will want to do is find a good toothbrush. Sure, you can use a regular toothbrush that has been made for humans, but there are several reasons you should opt for a canine specific one instead.
Perhaps your dog is a small breed and a regular toothbrush is just too big for their mouth. Depending on the length of your dog's snout, you may want a brush with a longer handle.
There are several kinds to choose from, so you will have no problem finding one that works best for your furry friend.
- Bristles - You can find dog toothbrushes that are soft bristled for sensitive teeth and gums, or ones that have firm bristles – but be sure to be gentle when brushing.
- Heads – You can find canine toothbrushes that are single-headed or double-headed. The smaller end of the double head one can come in handy when you need to get into a smaller area in your dog's mouth.
- Finger Brushes – Some owners find it easier to use a dog toothbrush that slides over their finger. When using this product, you would use your finger to scrub away at your furry friend's teeth instead of using a toothbrush with a handle.
- Electric Brushes – believe it or not, some companies also manufacture electric toothbrushes for dogs. In the same way your teeth get a better clean when using an electric toothbrush, your dog's teeth will get a better cleaning with this option too
You may have to try multiple options before you find one that works for you and your dog. You want your dog to be comfortable with the choice you make as well, so that he lets you brush his teeth without putting up a fight.
2. Choosing a toothpaste
You must use a toothpaste that is specifically intended for dogs. Human toothpaste has ingredients in it that can make your dog very sick or even kill him. Do not ever use regular toothpaste for your furry friend!
As with the toothbrushes, there are a variety of options when it comes to finding a toothpaste your dog will like and let you use.
You will want to choose a toothpaste that is made with enzymes. These enzymatic dog toothpaste options work to eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath while other ingredients work to eliminate plaque buildup.
As far as flavoring goes, you won't find many spearmint or cinnamon options here. No, instead you will find flavors that your dog will love. For example, there are toothpastes that taste like beef, peanut butter, chicken, banana, and seafood as well as a wide range of other flavors.
You could also opt to just make a simple paste from baking soda and water, though we think your dog may like the meatier tasting options better!
3. Steps to follow when brushing your dog's teeth
Now that you have the toothbrush and toothpaste sorted out, it is time to brush your dog's teeth – or is it?
To ensure this task goes well, you need to choose a time when things are calm. Don't brush your dog's teeth when there are guests over, and when he is playing with a friend. Instead, choose a quiet time, maybe when he's a bit worn out just after a walk or from running around.
Make sure you can see your dog's teeth. Don't brush them at night unless you have a bright light to see all the nooks and crannies in your dog's mouth.
Let your dog have a look at the toothbrush, and give him a taste of the toothpaste. If you chose the right flavor, he may be more than happy to let you get to work cleaning his pearly whites!
Put the toothpaste on the toothbrush and hold up your dog's top lip. Using circular motions, start brushing your dog's teeth making sure to brush the upper ones first. Brush the fronts of all the teeth and be sure to move around to both sides.
Now hold down your dog's bottom lip. Again, with circular motions, begin to brush his bottom teeth. Brush all the fronts and move around to the sides.
If your furry friend is being a good sport, see if he'll let you brush the backs of his teeth as well. This may take a little more maneuvering on your part, so consider using a finger brush for this step.
Once you are finished, praise your dog and offer him a treat.
4. Between brushings
Ideally you would brush your dog's teeth each day, but realistically most pet owners just don't succeed at following this advice. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do between brushings to help your dog maintain a cleaner mouth…
Ensure your dog is getting a balanced diet. If your dog is eating food and getting the nutrition he needs, he is less likely to be unhealthy overall.
There are special treats you can offer your dog that are meant to help keep his teeth clean. Purchase some of these and give them to him between cleanings.
Additionally, there are dog toys that have been specially designed to help keep your dog's mouth clean. Make sure he has a few of these to play with.
How to remove plaque from your dog's teeth
When your dog eats, the food leaves behind a sticky residue on his teeth. This residue is plaque. Over time, this plaque mixes with salts in your dog's saliva and this mixture hardens into tartar.
When tartar forms on your dog's teeth and gums, it can lead to periodontal disease which can cause pan and infection for your furry friend.
In as little as 36 hours tartar begins to form, so it is important that you know how to clean your dog's teeth even without brushing.
As suggested above, consider purchasing specialized treats and toys that have been designed to help prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Also, consider letting your furry friend snack away on a raw bone (never a cooked bone – they easily splinter and can harm your dog). You can also purchase products that have been made to help alleviate plaque and tartar buildup between cleanings.
1. Naturally remove plaque from your dog's teeth
Additionally, there are some all-natural ways to remove plaque from your dog's teeth. You can use natural enzymes that work to digest the tartar from your dog's teeth. As we said earlier, most dog toothpastes have enzymes in them as well, so if you are brushing his teeth regularly your dog should be good to go.
There are also some herbal extracts and essential oils that have proven effective at removing and preventing tartar while healing your dog's gums. Look for thyme oil, grapefruit seed extract, neem oil, peppermint oil and grape seed extract as well as rose and mint. There are spray and gel products available that contain these ingredients, and they go a long way in helping you keep your dog's mouth healthy.
2. Prevent plaque buildup from starting
The best way to get rid of plaque and tartar is to stop them before they get a chance to start.
You can do this by brushing your dog's teeth regularly. We keep driving this point home because it is important. Just as you must brush your teeth to remain in optimal health, he needs his cleaned as well.
Offer treats and toys that are meant to prevent plaque buildup.
Make sure your dog is eating a proper diet, and consider using a water additive that is made to kill mouth bacteria.
Ensure your dog is getting his yearly dental cleaning from his veterinarian. You can do a lot at home, but you can only go so far. Your dog needs to get his professional teeth cleaning at least once a year.
Tips for how to clean your dog's teeth
Here are a few reminders and tips before you go.
Never use a toothpaste that is meant for humans. Use a toothpaste made for dogs and find a flavor your dog enjoys.
Opt for a specially designed canine toothbrush that suits the needs of your dog.
Remember to hold your dog's lips out of the way while you are brushing their teeth. This gives you ample access to their teeth as well as their gums, and just makes the process easier all around.
Brush your dog's teeth gently, in circular motions.
Make sure you get all the teeth, including the back molars. Try to get the inside of your dog's teeth clean as well.
Reward your furry friend for his cooperation and this will help to ensure that he is a good boy each time you brush his teeth.
We know you love your furry friend and want to keep his health in great shape, so we hope that this guide has been informative and will help you do just that.
Feel free to drop us a line with any queries or feedback. We love to hear from our readers and we're always more than happy to help.
Thanks for reading, and happy brushing!