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How to brush your dog’s teeth?

Bichon with toothbrush in mouth advice

Tips to brush your dog's teeth

© Shutterstock

Humans brush their teeth twice a day, but sometimes our pets dental care gets forgotten about. But a build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to uncomfortable, painful dental disease - here’s how to clean dog’s teeth.

By Emilie Heyl

Updated on the 24/02/2020, 14:30

It’s true - dogs are just as prone to dental diseases as we are. According to the BBC, over 87% of dogs develop Periodontal disease in their lifetime. This disease is caused by an inflammation of a dog’s teeth and/or gums - and it’s completely avoidable. Your dog’s teeth need as much attention and care as yours do. They spend all day every day playing, grooming, chewing, eating and drinking with their mouth - so you need to take care of it! Want to know how to clean dog’s teeth? We’ve got you covered.

Find out more information about periodontal disease in dogs

Why do you need to clean dog’s teeth?

You need to clean dog’s teeth in order to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, which reduces the risk of dental disease.

“Dogs don't care if they have crooked teeth, so you will never have to buy braces for your basset. They rarely get cavities, either. But dogs, like people, do require regular home dental care. It’s the only way to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease, conditions in which bacteria in the mouth may lead to painful infections or even tooth loss” says Mathew Hoffman in Vet on Call.

If plaque is allowed to sit on the surface of teeth, it begins to combine with minerals, forming into tartar. Tartar is extremely irritating to the gums and left untouched, is a breeding ground for many painful doggy dental diseases - not to mention the horrendous breath!

Symptoms of dental disease in dogs

  • Bleeding, sore gums
  • Horrible, foul-smelling breath
  • Exposed, sensitive root of the tooth
  • Visible tartar/plaque/discoloured teeth
  • Loose teeth or tooth loss
  • Dropping food out of the mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unable to chew
  • Whimpering in pain

If you suspect your dog is suffering from a dental disease, you should get them to the vet as soon as possible. But as always, prevention is the best cure - so let’s discuss how to clean dog’s teeth!

Top tips for clean dog teeth

Start young

It’s best to start cleaning your dog’s teeth as early as possible. The process will be much easier this way as they’ll be used to brushing as a part of their daily routine.

Ask your vet

If you’re unsure about how to brush your dog’s teeth or your pooch just won’t agree with brushing, you can always ask your vet. They'll be able to demonstrate the best way to clean dog’s teeth for your dog's specific breed, so you know you’re getting it right.

Get the supplies

Whatever you do, don’t use human toothpaste on your pooch - it’s potentially toxic to them.

Pick up some dog toothpaste which is flavoured like meat, making it easier to get your dog to comply. Ideally, you should get a doggy toothbrush which fits onto your finger. If you don’t have one of these and want to get started, you can use a human toothbrush, as long as the bristles are soft.

Practise makes perfect

If you’ve left brushing until your pup is a little older, you should start the brushing process gradually. Don’t go straight in with a brush.
Firstly, simply lift the lip, and repeat this daily until your pooch is used to it. Eventually, begin applying gentle pressure to your dog’s gums and give them a sample of the toothpaste. After a while, they'll be ready for the brush.

Make it a habit

Once your pooch is used to brushing, you should try to do it as much as possible. Clean dog’s teeth will dramatically minimise the risk of dental disease. Try to brush at least twice a week, though a quick, 5-minute brushing session every day is best.

How to clean dog's teeth

It’s time to get some sparkly, white and clean dog’s teeth! When your pooch is happy and relaxed, kneel beside them or sit to the side of them. Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the teeth and brush in a gentle, circular motion.

Thoroughly clean the surfaces of both the teeth and gums, brushing each individual tooth for a few seconds. Don’t forget the teeth right at the back of the mouth and the canines - these tend to build up tartar pretty easily.

You’ll need to give your dog a quick break every now and then. Keep the mood light and happy whilst cleaning your pup’s tooth to make it an enjoyable experience for them - give them lots of pats and encouragement. At the end of brushing, reward them with a healthy, tasty treat.

How to clean dog’s teeth without brushing

We would always recommend using a brush to achieve clean dog’s teeth. However, if you’re occasionally busy or something gets in the way of your pup’s routine, there are a number of doggy dental products which can help to reduce tartar, including:

  • Dental Chews
  • Dental dry food
  • Breath tablets
  • Mouth sprays
  • Tooth wipes
  • Water additives

Implementing regular dog teeth brushing and a variety of other doggy dental products will guarantee clean dog's teeth. Now, you can be safe in the knowledge that your pooch is unlikely to develop any painful dental diseases - well done!