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Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth? Facts & Tips

Kerry-Ann Kerr Profile Picture

By Kerry-Ann Kerr

hand brushing dog's teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth is an extremely important job, but it’s one of those tasks that sometimes gets forgotten about or avoided. So yes, you should definitely brush your dog’s teeth.

Unfortunately, without the right care and attention, your dog’s teeth can become stained, painful, and expensive to treat.

We’ll examine why you should brush your dog’s teeth regularly and how to avoid a costly veterinary bill. Let’s take a look!

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Why Should I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

It’s estimated that over 2/3 of dogs over the age of 3 have periodontal disease 1. It is the inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, and it generally starts as gingivitis caused by plaque. If it’s left untreated, the disease can lead to painful tooth loss.

The minimum you should brush your dog’s teeth is three times a week to remove plaque and tartar accumulation. Ideally, however, you should brush your dog’s teeth twice a day.

brushing dog teeth
Image Credit: DWhiteeye, Shutterstock

How Do I Get My Dog Used to Having Their Teeth Brushed?

A way for this to be a successful experience is to make it a positive one for you and your dog. Praise your dog throughout and reassure them. Choose a quiet place where neither of you will be distracted and, for the best results, follow these steps:

  • If you have a small dog, try holding them securely in your lap with their head facing away from you. For larger dogs, try sitting in a chair with your dog beside you so you can get to its mouth easily.
  • When you brush your pet’s teeth for the first time, use a finger or a soft cloth to rub your dog’s teeth in a back-and-forth motion. Focus on where the gum touches the tooth surface.
  • Once your dog is more comfortable with the process, let them taste a bit of toothpaste from your finger, but you should only use toothpaste designed for canines.
  • When your dog seems happy with the taste of the toothpaste, apply some to the cloth and rub it over your dog’s teeth.
  • The next step is to start using a toothbrush. Again, use one designed for dogs.

It’s also a good idea to speak to your vet about dental care before you begin. Different breeds have different jaw alignments. Flat-faced breeds like Pugs have poorly aligned jaws and will have absent or crowded teeth, and they are more likely to suffer from dental disease.

The best way to get your dog used to getting its teeth brushed is to introduce it when they’re a puppy.

How to Maintain Healthy Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth is one task you can do to keep their teeth healthy, but other products can also benefit your pet’s dental health

  • Dental chews can be served to clean your dog’s teeth between brushings.
  • While some dogs might prefer wet food, dry food provides a mild cleaning effect and also exercises their chewing muscles. You can also purchase brands specifically formulated as dental diets to assist in plaque removal.
  • You might have heard that bones can clean your dog’s teeth, but they can also be hazardous. Bones can cause dental fractures and might also cause constipation. Cooked bones are likely to fragment and could cause internal damage.
  • There are several dog toys that help reduce or delay plaque and tartar build-up.
brushing teeth of labrador dog
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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Signs Your Dog Has Gum Disease

Although your dog’s teeth may appear healthy, it’s best to frequently inspect your dog’s mouth for tooth decay or gum issues. Be on the lookout for these signs:

  • Deposits on the teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Foul smell
  • Overly sensitive teeth
  • Refusal to eat

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet for an examination.

What Happens at a Routine Dental Cleaning?

Your dog will undergo a thorough dental examination, followed by dental scaling and polishing, which will remove the plaque and tartar. Your dog will be anesthetized once they’ve been cleared to go under anesthetic. Your vet will examine your dog’s mouth thoroughly, taking note of the alignment of the teeth and the extent of the tartar build-up above and below the gum line.

They will take X-rays to assess the viability of the tooth’s root and surrounding bone. If the periodontal disease is deemed severe, they might not be able to save the tooth, and an extraction may be the only option.

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Final Thoughts

Dental hygiene is incredibly important for canines. It would be best if you brushed your dog’s teeth daily to avoid plaque and tartar buildup. To ensure your dog gets used to it, try to introduce brushing when they’re young. However, if you have an older dog, you can still introduce daily brushing without stressing them out or annoying them.

Featured Image Credit: Littlekidmoment, Shutterstock

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