Just like humans, canines need a combination of both home dental care and dentist-like veterinary appointments to keep their smile bright, white and with no gum disease in sight.
And while there is a fleet of doggy dental products available to help you do this, daily toothbrushing of your canine’s canines is seen as the most effective way to look after your doggy’s dentures.
But how on earth would you even go about brushing a dog’s teeth?
To learn everything you need to know, from essential tools to the process itself, we’ve put together this in-depth guide to help clue you up before beginning your little tyke’s teeth cleaning journey!
What should I use to brush my dog’s teeth?
Dog’s require dog-friendly toothbrushes to clean their teeth.
This is because human toothbrushes use bristles that are far too hard and abrasive for canines, and so you’ll need to seek out a specialised model before you start scrubbing on those pearly whites.
Dog toothbrushes have much softer bristles, as well as long, manoeuvrable handles to ensure you can get at every nook and cranny of your dog’s teeth. You can also use finger toothbrushes and toothbrush toys.
Just like with toothbrushes, using human toothpaste on a dog is a massive no-no!
Human pastes contain ingredients that are incredibly harmful to dogs when ingested. Unlike us, they won’t spit it out once brushing has stopped.
Specialised dog toothpaste is far more suitable. Not only that, but they also come in dog-friendly flavours your canine will simply lap up.
They’re also often enzymatic, meaning they work alongside your dog’s saliva to naturally break down plaque and tartar.
Introducing your dog to teeth brushing
Look, we won’t beat around the bush. Sometimes cleaning your canine’s teeth is a troublesome task.
Not many dogs respond willingly to having toothbrushes put in their mouths. Some won’t even abide the hand of their owner having a poke around.
It’s therefore important to begin a process of desensitisation before going in gun-ho with paste and a brush, as you’re unlikely to get very far.
This can take a while, so be patient and be sure to reward your pup and show plenty of praise through every step to help build up a positive association with dental care.
To learn how to desensitise your dog to the process, read our guide below:
Desensitising your dog to dental work
The easiest way to get your dog used to their lips and gums being handled is by starting the process as a puppy, making the experience a learned behaviour.
However, it is possible to desensitise an adult dog too – it’s just going to be a little tougher!
To begin, try moving your pup’s lips and gently touching their teeth. It may take time for them to get used to this, so be sure to reward them and praise them every time they let you do so.
Once your dog is less squeamish about you touching their teeth, begin introducing a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger or even a doggy dental wipe.
From there you can begin mimicking the action of a toothbrush, teaching your dog what the sensation feels like. Again, be sure to treat them after each attempt!
If your canine ever gets overwhelmed, it may be that you have not built up enough of a positive association yet. If this is the case, go back to a step they are more comfortable with and work on praising them.
This can be a frustrating time, but don’t worry, it rarely happens after one try.
In fact, it can take weeks and even months for a dog to feel comfortable with the situation.
But it’s important to stick with it because even if they never accept a proper brush, these steps mean you can at least provide your little tyke with minimum dental care.
Introducing a toothbrush to your dog
Before you even attempt to put the toothbrush in your dog’s mouth, it’s best to build up a positive association with the appearance of the brush alone.
Every time you show your pup the brush, be sure to spoil your dog rotten with praise and treats until eventually, they begin to associate this magical bristle stick with good experiences.
Once they understand the brush brings positivity, you can begin touching your pet’s mouth with it until they feel comfortable with it.
When you feel they are beginning to accept the brush, you can then attempt to build towards a brushing motion on their teeth.
Go slowly with these steps, and don’t force the action. It’s likely that a dog will never truly enjoy the process, and so these steps are about making it as comfortable an experience as possible.
Introducing toothpaste to your dog
Although all dog toothpaste comes in suitable meaty flavours, it isn’t wise to just assume your mutt will love the taste of whatever product you buy.
Start by just putting a pea-size amount on your finger. If they happily accept it or even lap it up, you’re onto a winner!
If you struggle to find a paste your pup will accept, you’ll have to just brush without.
Although that’s not ideal, the mere action of brushing the tooth will go some ways to prevent plaque and tartar build-up.
How to clean a dog’s teeth
Once you’ve gone through all the palaver of introducing your dog to toothbrushes and paste, it can often be difficult to even know where to start when it comes to actual brushing.
Firstly, there is the position.
The best position to take when brushing is sitting behind your pup with them in your lap.
This way, you are both facing the same direction, and it makes access to all the sections of your canine’s mouth a breeze.
You should imagine your dog’s mouth in sections and slowly work your way around from left to right with the brush to make sure you have cleaned every tooth.
Think of the sections as back left, front left, back right and front right.
Give each section the same amount of effort.
Step by step guide
- Moisten your toothbrush with water
- Add a pea-sized amount of pet-approved toothpaste
- Apply the toothbrush to your dog’s teeth at a 45-degree angle (angled towards the gum)
- Begin brushing, working your way through each section of the mouth individually. All that is needed is three back and forth strokes on each area, and then a final downward stroke from the gumline to the tips of the teeth
- Begin with the back teeth, being sure to expose them by gently pulling your dog’s lip back at the corner of the mouth
- Don’t brush too hard, and simply imagine you are painting as opposed to scrubbing, as to much pressure can lead to gum damage
How often should I brush a dog’s teeth?
Although it’s a pain, dogs don’t have magical plaque fighting saliva. So just like humans, the best way to prevent tooth damage and gum disease is with daily doggy teeth brushing.
If that’s too difficult, then you need to ensure you are brushing at least three times a week, as well as offering plenty of dental care alternatives in between. Dental sticks are a good daily option.
Any less than this and it’s likely that your brushing sessions will just be pointless, as they aren’t being done frequently enough to have a positive effect.
Non-brushing dog teeth cleaning alternatives
Some pups just hate having their teeth cleaned and getting a finger near their mouth is hard enough, never mind a toothbrush.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on doggy dental care altogether.
Although they can never replace the effectiveness of brushing, they are several other methods that can aid in the prevention of tartar and plaque build-up.
Consult this list below to find out the best alternatives to securing your canine a bright, white smile:
Dog tooth wipes
These don’t quite solve the problem if you can’t get anywhere near your dog’s mouth, but they are a good option for brush haters or chewers.
Dog teeth wipes work by simply manually rubbing them against a tooth to break down existing plaque. They’re easier to manage than a brush but unfortunately are probably not as effective when it comes to getting at every little corner of your mutt’s mouth.
They’re best used as a quick polishing act between more thorough brushing sessions!
Dog dental treats
One of the easiest ways to give your dog’s muzzle a boost is with dog dental chews, the chewing gum of the canine world.
While your dog simply thinks they’re being awarded a tasty treat, they are in fact having their breath freshened and teeth cleaned, making them a pup’s favourite option!
Surprisingly, the simple act of chewing has hugely positive effects on a dog’s oral health, as gnawing naturally helps dogs scrape plaque from their teeth.
Dog Dental Chews take advantage of this by providing a brilliant chewing experience combined with other unique properties.
These range from bad breath fighting ingredients to omega oils or vitamins that boost your little tyke’s immune system.
Dog dental powders and water additives
One of the most popular forms of dog dental product in the last few years, powders and additives are simple to use and provenly effective against plaque and tartar.
Merely add the powder to a dog’s food or an additive to their water to freshen up breath and remove build-up around their teeth and gums. They won’t be as good as a brush, but help keep things fresh.
Dog dental disease: Signs and treatment
The sole reason you need to keep on top of a dog’s oral health is to prevent dental diseases, as some can become life-threatening if untreated.
Make sure to be aware of these symptoms and to contact your vet as soon as possible if your dog appears to be suffering from one or more of them:
- Deposits on the teeth
- Damaged and bleeding gums
- Foul-smelling mouth or visibly infected oral area
- The sensitive or sore root of a tooth, possibly exposed
- Dying, discoloured teeth
- Teeth falling out
Your dog may also refuse food, have difficulty eating or leave flecks of blood in their bowls.
Professional dog teeth cleaning
If you’re really struggling to clean your pesky mutt’s gnashers, don’t get too worried, as you can get your pup’s teeth cleaned professionally by your vet under anaesthesia.
You’ll also have to seek professional cleaning if your pup is already suffering from rotten or diseased teeth, as at-home teeth brushing can prevent such issues, but certainly won’t cure them.
It’s for this reason that it’s best to have dog’s teeth cleaned professionally on an annual basis, as this allows vets to give a yearly oral check-up as well as do the best job of preventing gum disease.
Much like when we go to the dentist!