Updated by Amy Granger on Dec 21, 2021
For us humans, brushing our teeth is a twice-daily routine. It's super important to maintain healthy teeth and gums, so we don't suffer from bad breath and dental-related illnesses and infections. As such, teeth brushing is taken seriously, and we're taught from a very young age that brushing our teeth is essential.
Yet when it comes to our dog's teeth, few of us have the same attitude. Many dog owners don't brush their dog's teeth, while others only get them cleaned on occasional trips to the vets. But the truth is, brushing your dog's teeth is just as important as brushing your own.
Here's everything you need to know about brushing your dog's teeth.
Yes, you do! According to PetMD, you should brush your dog's teeth at least two to three times every week. On top of this brushing, you should also book your dog in for professional dental cleaning once a year.
Some pet owners even brush their dog's teeth daily, depending on how particular they are about their pet's oral health. If your dog refuses to let you brush your teeth, there are some products that you can try instead [see part 3]. You should speak to your vet about these if tooth brushing is not an option for your canine companion.
Brushing your dog's teeth is essential for the maintenance of healthy gums and the prevention of infections. Just like you would make sure your kids always brush their teeth, you need to make sure your dog's teeth are well looked after, too.
Regardless of how good your relationship with your dog is, they're almost certainly not going to be happy about you sticking a brush in their mouth! As such, it will take a little bit of time and patience before you can successfully brush their teeth.
The first thing you will need to do is purchase the required supplies. Head to your local pet store and pick up a suitable doggy-sized toothbrush and some paste. Don't use human toothpaste, as this can upset your dog's stomach. Many of the pastes available for dogs are infused with meaty flavors, making them much more likely to enjoy the taste when they try it for the first time.
When you've got your supplies, it's time to start acclimating your dog. Here's a step by step tutorial you should follow when trying to brush your dog's teeth for the first time:
Before attempting to brush your dog's teeth, you will first need to stimulate their lips and gums. This process gets them used to you touching their teeth and intruding in their mouths. It would help if you gently rubbed their lips and gums for a couple of minutes, twice every day. Take things slow and always reward them with a treat after. While they will be uncomfortable at first and may even require a few weeks to get used to it, it will make things easier when it comes to brushing your dog's teeth.
When they seem happy enough with you touching their lips and gums, let them try the toothpaste. Put a tiny amount of your chosen paste on your fingertip and let them taste it. When they lick it, reward them with a treat. Remember, dogs learn through positive reinforcement, so giving them treats is an integral part of the process. You will need to spend up to one week getting your dog used to the taste of the toothpaste.
Now that your dog is used to the toothpaste, it's time to introduce the toothbrush. In the first instance, place the brush inside their mouth and don't do any brushing. After a few seconds, remove the brush from your dog's mouth and reward them with a treat. After a few days of this, it's time to start brushing.
Once your dog is acclimated, it's time to brush their teeth gently. Begin in one area of your dog's mouth, and brush in small, circular motions, applying very little pressure. Lift their lip and brush their gums, too. You should talk to them constantly and reassure them. Spend no more than 10-15 seconds with the brush in their mouth at any one time. The whole process of brushing their teeth should last for around one minute.
And always reward them with a treat! You can pick up some dental snacks from your local pet store.
Despite your best efforts, your dog might point-blank refuse to cooperate and lets you nowhere near your teeth. While frustrating, don't worry; there are alternative ways you can keep your dog's teeth clean without brushing them.
There are many dog mouthwash products available online and in pet stores that are a more convenient way of keeping your dog's teeth clean. While not as good as brushing, it's not a bad alternative to consider.
You can also find various dental snacks and food options for your dog that help to clean their teeth without your intrusion. However, if you opt for one of these alternatives, we would advise you to seek the advice of your vet first.
No. The bristles on a human toothbrush are much bigger and harder than those on a dog's toothbrush. Using a human brush can hurt your dog's teeth and gums.
If you don't want to use a brush and paste, you can feed your dog certain foods that help to clean their teeth naturally. Foods like apple slices, carrot sticks, and sweet potatoes help scrape plaque from your dog's teeth and keep them healthy without intervention.
In some ways, it can be easier to brush a puppy's teeth than an older dog. This is because they're much more open to new things, providing you're gentle. The trick here is to keep your puppy calm. Don't try and brush their teeth around meal or walk times, as they will be overstimulated. Opt for brushing their teeth at nap time or another time of day that they're usually slightly more relaxed.
In some instances, you will have to admit defeat and use an alternative to keep your dog's teeth clean. However, before you try something different, be patient and persevere. Bear in mind that it takes several weeks to acclimate your dog to the teeth brushing process, so don't expect immediate returns. Please encourage them by rewarding them with treats, as dogs learn new behaviors through positive reinforcement.
While it's not easy to brush your dog's teeth, it's vitally important that you try. Being patient, acclimating your dog, and getting them into a routine is the best way to do it.
If you don't have any luck, you can always try one of the other techniques that help to keep your dog's teeth clean, as introduced above.
However, if your dog shows any pain or discomfort when you clean their teeth, visit your vet right away, as there may be an underlying dental problem that you're not aware of.