How to Clean Dog Teeth

A puppy getting its teeth cleaned.

There’s nothing quite like waking up at sunrise to a hot infusion of damp dog breath. And while we love our dogs, that carrion-flavored breath just doesn’t have the same effect as Folgers does on our olfactory glands. But don’t worry; with just a few extra minutes of pet care a day, you can help clamp down on the stench rolling from your canine’s cake hole. A little preventative dental care goes a long way toward fresher breath and healthier teeth.

Not so surprisingly, dogs need dental care just as much as humans Dogs can get gingivitis, plaque and tartar buildup, tooth decay, and various other dental problems. Any pet should have, and deserves, at least annual pet healthcare checkups, if not more. Any time you suspect your pet may be suffering from a health or dental problem, see your veterinarian. Unlike people, our pets can’t tell us if something hurts, so it’s even more important to watch for symptoms of dental problems.

Cleaning Dog Teeth

  1. dry crunchy dog food in bowlUse crunchy dog food. This can mean that you use either all dry dog food, or that you use a mixture of dry dog food and wet dog food. As usual, it’s best to discuss this with your veterinarian to be sure what’s the best dietary plan for your unique dog. But even if your vet recommends a soft food diet, something crisp for chewing on is essential for both saving your shoes and for helping to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. Crunchy dog food helps remove plaque from dog teeth and helps prevent the buildup of tartar and plaque. If you’re not using crunchy dog food, consider crunchy dog treats, rawhide bones, tartar control bones, or other veterinary-recommended chewy things to help keep your dog’s teeth healthy. It’s cheaper than having to have the vet take out an abscessed tooth.
  2. plate of baconUse the correct supplies to brush a dog’s teeth.Surprisingly enough, your dog may not actually like lemongrass- and mint-flavored toothpaste, or bubblegum toothpaste, or, shockingly, cinnamon burst. Therefore, a trip to your veterinarian’s office or to your local pet supply store is called for. And behold, there you will find doggie toothpaste in the best assortment of flavors—flavors you wish they made for people: chicken, beef, pork, bacon, peanut butter, and more. Even better, many of these dog toothpastes come prepackaged with soft-bristled toothbrushes for your dog, all for sale in the single digits. And to answer the question rolling around your head: No, you can’t use the bacon-flavored toothpaste yourself. Doggies only. Along those same lines, don’t use human toothpaste for dogs. Not only is it distasteful, it simply isn’t made for doggie dental problems.
  3. holding dog mouth openAssume the position. The best way to deal with any sort of doggie malady is to stand behind the shoulder and out of the way of the toothy part. This same sentiment holds true for doggie tooth brushing. Even though tooth brushing for dogs isn’t usually a very traumatic event, it’s best to stand out of the way of dog teeth, as any frightened or confused dog, no matter how sweet, can snap or nip at something that confuses him or her. So while you’re dealing with the teeth, you don’t have to put your face directly in front of them. Stand behind the shoulder and reach forward, gently pull the lips away from the teeth with one hand, holding the brush with toothpaste on it with the other.
  4. picture from scrubs showScrub thoroughly. If this is your first time brushing dog teeth, you may feel that this whole procedure is awkward and strange. Well, it is. And it’s about to get even more strange. While your dog may have struggled at first, once that flavored toothpaste hits her tongue, you may have to struggle to keep your dog from simply eating the bristles off the brush. Don’t let that happen. Just fight past the Hoover-effect that most dogs seem to get when bacon is involved and gently brush each tooth with a circular motion. You may have to reapply toothpaste to the brush frequently. You don’t have to rinse after either. That part your dog will happily take care of.
  5. giving dog a biscuitApply treat. After all, every doggie needs positive reinforcement, and a treat will do it. After any doggie does what a doggie is expected to do, whether it is barking at intruders or behaving during grooming, a dog needs positive reinforcement. That means both a well-deserved pet and a treat. Every time your dog behaves well during a tooth brushing, you should reward your dog with a treat. Just make sure it’s something crunchy. A treat can be followed up with a tum-tum rub, ear scratch, or any other favored form of canine affection. The tum-tum demands rubs. And after that ordeal, could you really resist.

Dog Dentistry

Dental problems for dogs cannot only be extremely painful, but could also cause other health problems, such as dietary issues, malnourishment, infection, and more. Watch for symptoms like tooth or gum discoloration, plaque or tartar buildup, bleeding of the gums, swelling, pain, or anything unusual. If your dog isn’t eating, it’s time to bring him to the vet. If your dog isn’t chewing like he normally is, it’s time to bring him to the vet. Ever have an abscessed tooth? Yeah, dogs get those too. Remember the excruciating pain? Yeah, you wouldn’t want your dog to go through that either. So have your vet talk to you about how to clean a dog’s teeth, keep an eye out for any discomfort, and you can help avoid not only a lot of pain on your dog’s behalf, but also those dental bills which are so painful to your checkbook.

Dog Teeth Cleaning Tools

tube of dog toothpasteDog Toothpaste.Oh yeah. Bacon. Chicken. Beef. Peanut butter. Homer Simpson would be so jealous. Dog toothpaste comes in the sort of flavors that dogs love. And I mean really love. Like, try-to-pry-the-toothbrush-away-from-the-dog kind of love. You can pick doggie toothpaste up at any vet’s office or PetSmart for pretty cheap. It’s specifically designed for dogs and their teeth, and they really can’t get enough of it. Every time I pull it out of the cupboard, it’s nothing but a wagging tail and lots of drool.

close up of brushToothbrush.While you can purchase a soft-bristled human toothbrush to use on your dog’s teeth, many dog toothpastes come pre-packed with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Nothing really fancy is needed. Besides, the plain-Jane, no bells or whistles, white toothbrushes that come with the dog toothpaste can help you discern it from your own toothbrush on those disorienting mornings where you’ve run out of coffee.

rawhide dog bonesRawhide.Providing your dog with chewy things (that are not your beloved shoes or pieces of antique furniture) is a natural way to prevent plaque buildup on his or her teeth. The tough material of rawhide scrapes the plaque off of your dog’s teeth while he or she chews on it and helps reduce the need for you to brush your dog’s teeth. Try throwing down a rawhide or a pig’s ear while you’re at work and letting your dog fight plaque buildup with absolutely no effort on your behalf. Plus, it keeps your dog away from your favorite shoes. You can see quite the variety of rawhide sold on Amazon for whatever you think your dog will enjoy.