The importance of teeth cleaning
Good dental hygiene for dogs goes beyond improving pungent breath. About 80 percent of dogs develop dental disease by age four. That not only affects canine health but also leads to plenty of other problems down the road. And veterinary dentistry procedures hit you in the heart and the pocketbook. But learning how to clean dogs’ teeth isn’t typically the hottest topic in any pet care manual.
Because dogs don’t open wide and say “ah,” veterinarians must use pricey anaesthesia to perform root canals, extract a tooth, or straighten crooked fangs. Pets almost never get cavities filled, though. Damaged or decayed teeth get removed, and plaque – it looks like yellow or brown deposits on the teeth and leads to tooth loss and pain – is cleaned away.
You can reduce the frequency of required professional cleanings by learning how to clean dogs’ teeth at home. So grab a dog toothbrush, read the step-by-step instructions below, and get ready to brush your dog’s teeth daily.
How to clean your dog’s teeth
Cleaning your dog’s teeth is a part of dog grooming and is just as important as giving your dog a bath. You already know how to brush your own teeth, and the same technique applies to cleaning your dog’s teeth.
But your dog won’t willingly open wide for you. So part of cleaning its teeth includes teaching it what to expect so it won’t feel scared. Training your dog to accept teeth cleaning keeps it healthy and can also improve the bond you share with each other.
Teaching your dog takes time. Don’t rush or force your pet. It may take three days or three weeks before your pup is ready to let you clean its teeth. But once it understands and accepts the procedure, the teeth cleaning won’t take more than a few minutes a day. Ideally, you’ll want to clean your dog’s teeth after each meal, just like humans do. But if you can manage once a day, or even two or three times a week, count that as a win.
Chew toy: Dogs love to chew anyway, but a favourite toy helps with training. Choose a non-fabric toy that won’t hold moisture. Something your dog likes to hold or carry gets bonus points. A dental toy for big dogs, or one sized for smaller dogs, is ideal.
Dental treats: Use dental treats along with the toy to teach your dog to accept holding something in its mouth. The treats reward the behaviour you want your pet to learn, so it trusts that even if you ask it to do something weird, it’ll get good things out of it.
Bath towel: No, you won’t dry him off with the towel. But toothbrushing can involve drooling and head-shaking that leads to dribbled toothpaste. A towel provides an easy-to-clean surface for training and eventual teeth cleaning. Using the same towel each time signals to your dog what happens next.
Dog toothpaste: Never use human toothpaste with your dog. Dogs can’t spit and shouldn’t swallow the fluoride that human products contain. Dogs also hate the foaming action. Instead, choose a toothpaste designed specifically for dogs. Pet toothpaste contains flavours dogs love, like peanut butter.
Gauze pads: You don’t have to use a toothbrush, and dogs may accept other materials more readily. Gauze pads work well and are disposable. They also work as a first step. Once your pup accepts cleanings with gauze, you can move on to other cleaning options.
Wipe: A washcloth also works to clean dog teeth. Simply wrap it around your index finger and apply the paste. As an added bonus, you have a towel handy if you need to wipe off your dog’s face. Another option is using dental wipes for dogs.
Finger toothbrush: Dogs are funny. They’ll pick up nearly anything in their mouths but object to you sticking something weird inside. Yours may more easily accept a finger – or a finger toothbrush. You might find it easier to use too.
Baby toothbrush: Baby’s first toothbrush, with its extra-oft bristles, may work for some dogs, especially those with tiny mouths.
Dog toothbrush: If you like, you can work up to using an official dog-specific toothbrush.
Dental rinse: There are products you can use to rinse off your dog’s teeth, as well as those you can add to your dog’s water, to help keep its teeth clean.
Ready to get brushing? The steps below will guide you from training to regular brushings.