Dental health among dogs is one of the most critical aspects of their healthy being. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most ignored.
Many dog parents tend to ignore or are unaware of the importance of their dogs' oral health. Meanwhile, others do not pay it any mind thinking it takes a lot of time and effort to clean dogs' teeth.
Dog dental health is not that difficult. But you have to keep in mind a few things.
How to Keep Dogs’ Teeth Clean?
There are a few ways you can keep your dogs' teeth clean. We will divide these methods into two types - one where brushing is involved and the ones where brushing isn't involved.
How to Brush Dog Teeth?
Dog Teeth Brushing can be seen as an overwhelming task. But keep in mind these few things, and you will realize it is not as difficult as it seems:
- Choose a time when there are fewer distractions. Preferably, only you and your dog should be present. Also, choose a time at which the dog is the calmest.
- Pick a suitable spot. It could be your bathroom or your porch — just make sure there is enough lighting and comfort, both for you and your dog.
- Make sure your dog is used to getting touched on their mouth. You can do this by repeating and increasing touches and rewards each time they tolerate your touch.
Pro tip: lift their upper lip and touch their teeth. Do the same thing on their bottom lip. Repeat until they are comfortable and willing to go further.
- Buy dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Toothbrushes made for dogs have long, curvy handles that make reaching the back of a dog's mouth easier. Similarly, made-for-dogs toothpaste do not have ingredients toxic to dogs.
- Have a toothbrush and toothpaste ready. Introduce them to your dog — first, bring the toothbrush close to their mouth and touch their teeth with it. After they are comfortable with that, let them taste the toothpaste. Reward after each repetition.
Take it a step at a time. Start with the top teeth, then move to the bottom, and only then to the rear of their mouth.
While doing so, brush the outsides of their teeth first. If you notice they are comfortable with this, only then should you try brushing the insides of their teeth.
Remember that this is unnatural. Dogs do not brush their teeth in nature. Therefore, to get them used to this activity, make sure they take it as a positive experience. Reward generously.
While giving your dog food while brushing their teeth might seem counter-productive, the goal is to get them comfortable with the activity. You can remove treats gradually.
Frequently Asked Questions about Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Do You Need to Brush Dogs’ Teeth?
Yes, you do. Dental health issues are a big thing among dogs, and you would do well to clean your dog's teeth regularly.
What Can I Use to Brush My Dog’s Teeth?
You can use a regular toothbrush to brush your dog's teeth. However, we suggest you use a toothbrush designed for dogs for their ease of use.
A dog holding a toothbrush
As for toothpaste, you should always use toothpaste made for dogs. This is because they do not contain toxins human toothpaste has, thus making them safer.
Can You Brush a Dog’s Teeth with Human Toothpaste?
You can. But you SHOULD NOT. Human toothpaste has toxins that can be harmful to dogs.
Can I Brush My Dog’s Teeth with Baking Soda?
No. You should NEVER brush your dog's teeth with baking soda. Similar to human toothpaste, they can be toxic.
This is because baking soda is highly alkaline. If swallowed, they can cause digestive upsets and pain.
Further, baking soda does not taste good and can ruin your attempts at brushing your dog's teeth.
How to Clean Dogs’ Teeth without Brushing Them?
If your dog is uncomfortable with brushing their teeth regardless of how hard you have tried, fret not. There are plenty of other ways to upkeep your dog's dental health.
If we are being honest, none of these are as effective in cleaning plaque and tartar; they are nevertheless good alternatives to brushing your dog's teeth.
A few of these methods are:
Dog Tooth Wipes
Dog tooth wipes are specialized dental wipes made to rub against dogs' teeth. Although similar to toothbrushes (because they remove dirt by rubbing them away), they are not as effective. This is because they cannot get into the nooks and crannies like a toothbrush.
However, they are easier to manage than toothbrushes, and your dog might prefer them over bristles.
Dog Dental Treats
Treats and dogs always go paw-in-paw. And dental treats are the perfect combination of enjoyment and treatment for your dogs.
Dental treats are designed specifically to help remove plaque and tartar from your dogs' teeth. They also have ingredients that freshen your dogs' breath and clean their tongues.
As dogs can eat them, they are a much easier alternative to brushing your dogs' teeth.
Dog Dental Food
It seems counter-intuitive that any food will clean your dog's teeth. But that is exactly what specifically designed dog food does.
Prescription dental food is an excellent option for dogs more susceptible to periodontal disease. These foods are clinically proven to reduce dental disease.
A girl feeding her dog food from a bowl
So, how do dog dental foods work?
It's straightforward. As your dog chews on these foods, it scrapes the plaque off the teeth' surface. This reduces tartar buildup.
Further, they also contain ingredients that help reduce bacterial growth inside the mouth.
Dog Dental Food Powder
If none of the above methods work with your dog, you could try dental powders.
There are special powders you can put on top of your dog's meal. They are designed to help promote healthy bacteria and kill plaque-building bacteria in your dog's mouth.
Additionally, they also freshen your dog's breath.
Dog Dental Water Additive
No dog can live without water. And that is where this solution comes in.
You can find many odorless dental solutions you can add to your dogs' water. These work the same way mouth floss work for humans, except they are not toxic when inhaled — they kill plaque-building agents and freshen breath.
Just add the recommended amount to your dog's water bowl daily, and you should be good.
Chewing on stuff is dogs' favorite pastime. Dog chews help keep dogs busy and stop destructive chewing, but the benefits don't stop there.
Dog chews also help scrape plaque off your dog's teeth. Some dog chews can even help with bad breath.
There are many kinds of dog chews you can choose from. Some are natural and edible (like our yak chews - Tibetan Dog Chews), while others are inedible (like plastic and rubber chews).
You could even find a dog chew specifically designed to clean dogs' teeth — some of these have ridges and bumps that get into the nooks and crannies of your dogs' teeth and remove plaque.
In depth: What Are the Best Chews for Dogs? — A Dog Parent’s Guide
How Often to Clean Dogs’ Teeth?
There is no straight answer to this. You should clean your dog's teeth as often as possible, or daily.
But if you are a sucker for numbers, here's a recommendation — you should clean your dog's teeth and mouth AT LEAST three times a week.
Benefits and Importance of Dog Teeth Cleaning
There are many benefits of cleaning your dog's teeth. Some of them are:
- Prevent Tooth Loss
- Prevent Bad Breath
- Prevent Oral Pain
- Prevent Organ Damage
- Prevent Worsening Dental Disease
Signs Your Dog Might Have Dental Health Issues
You can easily notice if your dog has (or is about to have) teeth-related health issues if you are vigilant. The following are some tell-tale signs you should keep an eye out for:
- Bad breath
- Broken or loose teeth
- Abnormal teeth growth - extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Teeth that are discolored, yellow, or covered in tartar
- Excessive and abnormal drooling
- Reduced appetite
- Pain, bleeding, or swelling in areas surrounding the mouth
- Change in dog's behavior - irritability
- Abnormal chewing or dropping food from the mouth
Dedicate a bit of time every day to take care of your dog's teeth and both your dog and your wallet will thank you in the long run.
Some reports suggest that Gen Z and Millenials are becoming more conscious about their dogs' oral health. You might as well get on with the trend!
For more tips and tricks on dog parenting, please read our guide on dog grooming and dog exercise. Or maybe read about why your dog is a lot smarter than you think they are!