In many ways, maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your dog is very similar to what we do as humans. We both require a healthy diet and exercise, we both have grooming practices, and…we both need to have our teeth brushed.
While it’s easy to remember to give your dog the occasional bath and take them on walks, oral care is something that unfortunately frequently gets forgotten. But harmful plaque can build up just as easily on our dog’s teeth as on our own, and it requires frequent removal so that more serious health issues don’t arise as a result.
It’s one thing to brush our own teeth but knowing how to brush dogs teeth can be a different matter if you’re new to the practice. Below, we’ve provided all the information you need to know about brushing your dog’s teeth so that your dog can maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Sure, dogs may need to have their teeth brushed, but definitely not as much as a human, right?
Actually, in an ideal situation, your dog will have their teeth brushed twice a day, just like a human. This is, of course, unrealistic for most pet owners to work into their schedules. Still, brushing your dog’s teeth just a few times a week or even once a week can make a world of difference for maintaining their oral care.
It’s also recommended that your dog receive professional dental cleanings at least once per year, though the necessary frequency between visits may vary between individual dogs and the natural state of their teeth. Consult with your veterinarian about the health of your dog’s teeth.
Dogs after the age of three are particularly susceptible to developing periodontitis and other forms of gum disease, so it is important that we maintain their oral care to the best of our abilities.
Have the Proper Equipment
Before you can actually brush your dog’s teeth, you first need to have the proper equipment to do so. Using products made for humans simply won’t cut it, as our mouths and systems are designed differently.
1. Dog Toothbrushes
There are several different types of dog toothbrushes available. The main difference between dog toothbrushes and human toothbrushes is that dog toothbrushes tend to be made of thinner, softer bristles. It is acceptable, then, to occasionally use a soft brush designed for babies if a dog toothbrush cannot be procured.
Dog toothbrushes typically have angled heads or multiple heads, ideal for getting hard to reach places are covering all surfaces of a tooth at the same time. Small toothbrushes that fit nicely in your hand are often preferred, but some also like to use brushes with long handles, so they can keep their hand at a safe distance.
Perhaps the most recognizable form of a dog toothbrush, however, is the finger brush. This toothbrush slips over your finger so that you have ultimate control in wielding the brush. These are particularly good to use with small dogs.
2. Dog Toothpaste
You must also use specialized dog toothpaste. Human toothpaste should NEVER be used, as it is unsafe to swallow and may cause an upset stomach. Also, do not use baking soda or salt—the high sodium content is not safe for your dog and may actually cause serious injury.
Dog toothpastes come in a variety of dog-friendly flavors, including mint, malt, poultry, beef, and peanut butter.
How to Brush Dogs Teeth Safely and Effectively
Once you have the proper toothbrush and toothpaste, you’re almost ready to begin brushing your dog’s teeth…almost. When it comes to how to brush dogs teeth safely, you need to first accustom your dog to the idea. Just like we don’t always enjoy a trip to the dentist, it will take a little while for your dog to get used to you poking around its mouth.
Putting Yourself on a Non-Threating Level
The first step when brushing your dog’s teeth and getting them accustomed to the process is to move yourself down to a non-threatening level. Don’t try to stand over them or otherwise bear down on them. This will only lead to your dog feeling cornered and intimidating.
Instead, try kneeling in front or on the side of your dog, putting yourself at their level. You can also sit in a chair to their side and lean across your own body. If you have a small dog, place them comfortably in your lap.
Getting Your Dog Accustomed to Brushing
And now to begin the process of getting your dog accustomed to the feeling of brushing. This process shouldn’t be done all in one day so that your dog has time to adjust. It is also recommended that you begin establishing a brushing routine from an early age—younger dogs will adapt to the process much more readily and easily.
The first step in the process is to get your dog accustomed to you handling their mouths. As you sit beside them, gently raise a side of the upper lips on one side of their mouth. Then, with a soft cloth over the finger of your other hand, lightly rub the surface of your dog’s teeth for several seconds. Repeat on the other side.
The next time you sit down with your dog to accustom it to brushing, after you lift up the upper lip also try tilting your dog’s head back while maintaining a light grip on its upper snout. This will give you access to its lower set of teeth. Lightly rub these teeth as well. Repeat this process on the other side.
Continue this rubbing treatment until your dog seems fully comfortable with, gradually increasing the time you spend and moving around to the front teeth.
Once your dog is comfortable with you handling its mouth, it’s time to introduce it to the dog toothpaste. Try placing a little on your dog’s tongue so that it gets used to it. Because most dog toothpastes are made with flavors that are pleasing to dogs, you shouldn’t have any problems.
If your dog ever shows any signs of aggression during this process, withdraw and do not continue during that session. It is important that your dog associates your brushing and training time with positive experiences, so make sure to praise your dog and treat it with affection during and after this process.
After you’ve adequately prepared your dog, it’s time to get into how to brush dogs teeth.
Best Brushing Methods
Using your dog toothbrush of choice, place a dab of toothpaste on it and begin brushing, using the method detailed above of raising the lip and opening the mouth. Brush in small circles, just as you would your own teeth.
If your dog is comfortable enough with you going all around its mouth, brush all surfaces of the teeth. Most dogs won’t be comfortable letting you go that far, however, and that’s okay. What’s important is to get the outsides of the teeth that are most prone to developing plaque, especially the back teeth and the canines. The insides of the teeth will naturally be cleaner due to the cleansing properties of your dog’s tongue.
Spend about 30 seconds on each side of your dog’s mouth. There’s no need to rinse out your dog’s mouth while brushing—dog toothpaste is entirely safe to swallow.
It is best to establish a regular routine when brushing your dog’s teeth. Having a specific time of day is always good, but more important is consistently going through the same steps in the same order so that your dog is as comfortable as possible and doesn’t receive any surprises.
Once you’re done, don’t forget to praise your dog for a job well done and shower them with rewarding love and affection.
If All Else Fails…
Some dogs just won’t get comfortable with you brushing their teeth, no matter how gradually you try to introduce the concept. It’s never worth getting bitten, so if your dog continually shows signs of aggression when you try to brush its teeth its probably best to leave it be.
As an alternative to brushing your dog’s teeth, try giving it dental chews or other toys that are proven to help clean away some of the plaque from their teeth. You can get a lot of great ideas from your vet.
Smiles All Around
Knowing how to brush dogs teeth is important for their overall health and shouldn’t be neglected. While it can be difficult to fully establishing a daily routine, try to at least brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week. It’s completely natural that we may not always reach our goals of brushing our dog’s teeth as regularly as we’d like, but what’s important is that we keep trying to.
Once your dog is used to having its teeth brushed, it may even grow to enjoy the process. Your canine will also have considerably better breath, which is just more enjoyable for everyone around.