Home Dental Care for Dogs

Dog home dental care is crucial to your dog's health.

Dog teeth are the same as human teeth. They have the same structures and need the same care. If you didn't ever brush your teeth, the plaque that develops on them daily would quickly harden into tartar. Tartar is a hard coating on the teeth that allows bacteria that don't require oxygen to multiply on the surfaces of the teeth. These bacteria strains are very damaging to the teeth and gums. They cause infection, loosening of teeth, and pain.

Consequences of Poor Dental Health in Dogs

Good dental health is an important factor in your dog's overall physical condition and well-being. Painful teeth and gums can be detrimental to nutrition, general health, and quality of life. The long-term consequences of poor dental hygiene in dogs can be serious and include the possibilities below.

The good news is that, by caring for your dog's teeth on a daily basis, you can greatly reduce or even eliminate these problems.

What Supplies Are Necessary to Properly Care for Your Dog's Teeth?

First, it's always a good idea to take your dog to the veterinarian for an initial dental health assessment. Your dog may need a professional cleaning before you start a home care regimen. Your veterinarian can also advise you about your dog's dental risk factors, products you should use, and even show you how to brush your dog's teeth.

Once you get the go-ahead from your veterinarian, you can begin the job of finding products that work well for your dog. Be patient, as this process can require some trial and error. You will need:

How Do You Brush a Dog's Teeth?

  1. First, get your dog used to having your fingers around and eventually in his mouth. If this is a new experience for your dog, you may need to proceed at a very gradual pace.
  2. Acclimate your dog to the toothpaste and brush. Start by letting your dog lick the dog toothpaste off of your fingers. Next time, use your dog toothbrush and, again, encourage your dog to lick the toothpaste off the brush. At this point, your dog may start to look forward to this as a yummy treat, so it's not a bad idea to brush your dog's teeth around the same time every day.
  3. When it's time for the real thing, position your dog in front of you—small dogs on a table, larger dogs on the floor. Restrain your dog gently so as to minimize squirming and maximize access to the mouth. Start by lifting your dog's upper lips and sliding the brush in a fine circular motion along the gum line. Focus on the front teeth first, then the back teeth if you can. Start with the upper teeth, then do the lowers. Brush the outside tooth surfaces only (if you want to keep your fingers, that is) as dogs don't build up much tartar on the inside surfaces of their teeth. As you and your dog get more comfortable, work toward reaching the upper back molars. This is usually where plaque and tartar builds up the most. The entire process should take about one minute once you and your dog get the routine down.

    Some tips for dogs that become overenthusiastic at the taste of the toothpaste:

    • Put your dog in a firm sit/stay position to establish calm.
    • With your free hand, try gently clamping your dog's muzzle to a nearly-closed position. This will calm your dog and prevent him from trying to lick and chomp on the toothbrush (and your fingers).
    • Retry the procedure with plain tap water on the brush.
  4. Follow every brushing session with enthusiastic praise and/or playtime, whatever your dog appreciates most, and possibly a dental treat. Reward your dog no matter how far you get into the process. Over time, this will become a habit, something that you and your dog can look forward to . . . and even smile about.

Dr. Schelling's Helpful Hints:

For more tips watch this great video tutorial on brushing your dog's teeth.

This informative video teaches you how to brush your pet's teeth.

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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at DogHealth.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site. Just Answer is an external service not affiliated with DogHealth.com.