Charlie’s teeth were a mess when I adopted him. They were covered in plaque and tartar, he had a couple of holes in his teeth, and he had some powerfully bad breath.
Unfortunately for me, he loves to get up close and give kisses. His breath was killing me! But seriously, a dog’s oral hygiene is so important.
Until I was able to get him to the vet for a proper cleaning, I gave him Greenies to try and at least maintain his teeth. It didn’t do much, but I’m hoping that now, after the cleaning, it will help us maintain healthy teeth in concert with teeth brushing.
Now we have a dog toothbrush kit complete with doggie flavored toothpaste. Let the brushing begin!
Why should you brush your dog’s teeth?
Part of keeping your dog healthy is keeping his or her mouth healthy. Tooth decay and gum disease can be painful for your dog and, just like in people, gum disease and tooth decay can lead to health problems in the rest of the body – like the heart.
Some dogs are more prone to dental problems than others. Belle requires little maintenance whereas Charlie, who has only been with me for several months now, already requires weekly teeth brushings.
How to brush your dog’s teeth
Just like any kind of training, it’s a little easier to do if your dog has been exercised. So go for a walk first!
First of all, you’ll need to get your dog used to someone touching his gums and teeth. Try touching his gums, maybe even massaging them a short bit while talking to him, then giving him a treat. Repeat this a couple of times a day for a couple of weeks.
Then you’ll need to get your dog used to the toothbrush. If he shows any fear or anxiety about the toothbrush, keep it around him and let him inspect it before you begin using it in his mouth. Put a little bit of the flavored toothpaste on it and let him just lick it off before trying to put the brush in his mouth.
DON’T USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE! Human toothpaste contains fluoride, which is dangerous to dogs. If you read the warnings on the tubes – even you aren’t supposed to swallow human toothpaste. Try explaining that to a dog and then ask him to spit…..
Gently pull back your dog’s lips so that you can clearly see his teeth. Brush your dog’s teeth at an angle of 45 degree, in a circular motion (just like humans!) and be gentle. Focus on the outside of the mouth where most of the tartar and plaque is likely to build up. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get your dog’s teeth cleaned.
Charlie was super easy about all of this. He’s so mellow he doesn’t mind me doing much of anything to him. I skipped most of the part about getting him used to someone touching his teeth and gums and went right in to the tooth brushing. It went pretty well and I think it will get easier the more I do it.
How often should you brush your dog’s teeth?
I suppose you probably should brush your dog’s teeth just about every day. The ASPCA recommends 2-3 time a week. Realistically, once or twice a week is probably more common. That’s my goal.
Combine that with regular check-ups with your vet, and your dog’s teeth should be in good shape.
Other tips for keeping your dog’s teeth healthy
In addition to cleaning his teeth, give your dog a chew bone every once and a while. I like Greenies, but there are other dental bone brands out there. You might also consider a chew toy. Having something to chew on can help keep their teeth clean. Make sure it isn’t something that they can break a tooth on though – talk to your vet if you aren’t sure what is recommended for your dog.
Read the ASPCA’s steps for dog dental health