A Pet Parent’s Guide to Mastering Dog Dental Care
If you're like most pet parents, the thought of getting your dog to sit still for teeth cleaning may feel next to impossible. Although keeping up with your dog's dental care routine can seem challenging, it is important for their overall health and can stave off serious problems later in life. In fact, dogs are likely to show signs of periodontal disease by the time they are three years old, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Whether it's learning how to clean your dog's teeth, supplementing their dental routine, or knowing how to spot the signs of dental health issues, there is plenty you can do for your pup's oral wellness. Not to mention, you will both benefit from fresher doggy breath! Follow our advice for mastering dog dental care and providing your pooch a comfortable, stress-free environment.
How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth
Brushing your pooch's teeth is the first line of defense against problems such as bad breath, plaque and tartar buildup, and periodontal disease. If you have never brushed your pup's teeth before, you both will need to familiarize yourselves with the process. Follow these steps to acclimate your dog (and yourself) to brushing.
Step 1: Massage Your Dog's Gums
Before your dog can grow accustomed to a toothbrush, they will need to feel comfortable having your fingers in their mouth. Start by massaging your pup's gums using your finger, gently rubbing in a circular motion. If your dog doesn't take to this right away, don't give up. Keep massaging in short 15-30 second spurts. Diligence is key!
Step 2: Break Out the Toothpaste
Once your dog can handle having their gums massaged, squeeze a drop of dog toothpaste on your finger. Never use human toothpaste, which contains ingredients that may hurt your dog's stomach, according to WebMD. Encourage your dog to lick the toothpaste from your finger, familiarizing them with the taste. Once they get the hang of it, you'll be ready to start brushing!
Step 3: Brush Your Dog's Teeth
Look for a dog toothbrush that has soft bristles and features an angled neck designed to fit dogs' unique mouth shape. After you purchase one of these toothbrushes, start brushing the front of your pup's teeth and gradually move toward the back. Remove any debris you see along the way.
Read our complete guide to brushing your dog's teeth for more detailed tips!
Establishing a Dog Dental Care Routine
Once you learn how to clean your dog's teeth, you should ideally brush every day. Dogs' mouth and lips are close to their teeth, which allows plaque and tartar to build up quickly. That's why you should clean your best friend's teeth as often as possible, even if you cannot pencil in time for teeth cleaning on a daily basis.
In addition to regular brushing, schedule an annual veterinarian visit to have your dog's teeth examined. Your vet should check for signs of periodontal disease and catch any oral health concerns that may require professional attention. This also serves as an opportunity to ask questions about your dog's dental routine and make any changes that could help you clean their teeth more efficiently.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
Because periodontal disease is so common among dogs, learning the signs and symptoms can potentially save your furry friend a lot of trouble down the road. Dogs can develop gingivitis just as humans can, which is one of the most common signs of periodontal disease. Red or swollen gums and bad breath are common gingivitis symptoms, according to PetMD.
Gingivitis is not the only sign of oral health problems. Chewing on one side of the mouth, ropey saliva, bumps in the mouth, and loose teeth may also indicate your dog has periodontal disease, according to WebMD.
Your dog may not show signs of discomfort if they experience any of the above symptoms, but taking early action is still critical. If left unchecked, these symptoms can become more developed and make chewing difficult. Ultimately, periodontal disease may lead to broken teeth and require your vet to extract them.
Inspect your dog's mouth while brushing to check for signs of periodontal disease. If you notice something out of the ordinary but do not know if it could signal a dental problem, it's better to be safe than sorry; contact your vet for further assistance.
Explore our article about preventive dog dental care for more advice.
Scheduling a Professional Dental Cleaning
Your vet may suggest a professional dental cleaning, especially if they see signs of periodontal disease. Depending on your dog's dental needs, your vet will likely recommend specific dental procedures. According to The Spruce Pets, procedures may include:
- Dental x-rays
- Plaque and tartar removal
- Teeth polishing
- Tooth extraction (only in extreme cases)
It is customary for vets to administer a general anesthesia prior to cleaning teeth; this allows them to more easily perform necessary procedures while minimizing distractions for your dog. Even if your dog undergoes a professional cleaning, maintaining a dog dental care routine at home is still vitally important to their health.
Dog Dental Care Supplements
Regularly brushing your dog's teeth and scheduling dental cleanings aren't the only ways to care for your furry friend's oral hygiene. Incorporate these supplemental items into your dog's routine to help them maintain clean teeth and fresh breath.
- Finger brushes: Plaque and tartar have a knack for hiding in hard-to-reach places. A dog finger brush slips right over your finger, allowing you to easily scrub away buildup in tricky spots.
- Dental liquids, foams, and sprays: Many supplemental dental products are available to promote your dog's oral health. Dental liquids, dental foams, and dental sprays can all help get the job done.
- Dental chew treats: Who says caring for your dog's oral health can't be fun? There are many dental dog treats that help clean teeth and freshen breath as dogs chew, providing a tasty and effective way for your best friend to help keep their mouth clean.
- Chew toys: Speaking of fun, you can find many dog chew toys that help remove plaque and tartar buildup. Nylabone offers a wide range of chew toys with dental ridges and nubs that help clean teeth as your dog chews.
- Natural chews: Bully sticks, beef hide bones, shin bones, and other natural dog chews help clean teeth through chewing action and provide a long-lasting reward for your furry friend.
Always give your dog chew toys and edible chews that are appropriate for their size and chew strength, and be sure to supervise all chewing sessions.
Dental Care for Puppies
Daily brushing is just as important for growing puppies as it is for adult dogs. Because periodontal disease affects so many dogs at a young age, it's best to establish a puppy dental routine as soon as possible. Start acclimating your pup to brushing once you see their baby teeth, familiarizing them with having your fingers in their mouth and the taste of toothpaste. The younger your puppy accepts having their teeth brushed, the more likely they are to feel comfortable with their dental routine when they get older.
If your little furry friend appears to chew everything in sight, odds are they're teething. The puppy teething process starts when a pup's baby teeth appear and ends when their permanent teeth come in (about six to eight months old). Chewing helps puppies relieve teething pain and pressure, providing a source of comfort as they grow.
Although giving your dog puppy chew toys should be encouraged, objects like your shoes or towels should not be up for grabs. Chewing inappropriate objects can damage your puppy's teeth—especially objects that are too hard, according to the American Kennel Club. Only let your dog chew items that are intended for puppies and discourage them from chewing forbidden objects.
There's Nothing Like a Healthy Smile!
Learning how to clean your dog's teeth and gums will help their smile shine bright. Keep up with regular brushing and consult your vet if you notice signs of periodontal disease or have questions about specific dog dental care activities. Your furry friend will thank you for shiny teeth and fresh breath!