Just like you, your dog can get cavities, plaque, tartar and gum disease. The bacteria in your dog’s mouth that can cause these conditions can also spread to other organs such as your dog’s kidneys or heart. Unfortunately, chew toys, bones, and kibble are not sufficient teeth cleaners to prevent the development of dental disease. Brushing your dog’s teeth, ideally once a day but at a minimum three times a week, is the only way to keep his teeth healthy and help promote your dog’s overall wellness.
Before starting your dog on a tooth-care regime, you first need to make sure that your dog’s teeth are not already covered with tartar. Once tartar has accumulated on your dog’s teeth, brushing alone will not remove it. In addition, brushing tartar-covered teeth can irritate your dog’s gums and teeth which are already likely sensitive and sore from the tartar. If your dog has tartar (yellow, brown or grey material on the teeth) or you suspect he has another dental or gum disease – signs include receding or swollen gums, broken teeth, or strongly odorous breath – make an appointment with your vet before you begin brushing his teeth. Among other treatments, your veterinarian might recommend a professional teeth cleaning and check-up for dental disease. Because a thorough cleaning can be a bit painful, this procedure is almost always done under anesthesia.
The Right Tools
Before you begin, you will need the proper tools: a toothbrush and dog toothpaste. They make toothbrushes for dogs – even electric ones – but you can just buy a regular toothbrush as long as it soft-bristled. Toothbrush head size depends on the size of your dog’s teeth. Also available are little caps that fit over your index finger and have soft bristles on one side so that your finger becomes the brush. For toothpaste, you should use dog toothpaste. Never ever use human toothpaste on your dog. Human toothpaste is not meant to be ingested, but dog toothpaste is safe for your dog to ingest in small quantities as will often happen when you brush your dog's teeth.
Preparing Your Dog
Now that you have your toothbrush and toothpaste, it is time to get your dog comfortable with the idea of tooth brushing. You will be most likely to keep up with teeth cleaning if it is a reasonably pleasant experience for you and your dog. So, take some time – a few days or a few weeks – to make your dog comfortable with the process.
First, get you dog used to the idea of having his teeth touched. Gently run your finger over his gums and praise him lavishly when you are done. After your dog has grown accustomed to this, start using the toothbrush without any toothpaste. Let your dog sniff the toothbrush and then gently put it in his mouth. You don’t need to brush at this point, but run the toothbrush lightly over his teeth. Your dog might try to chew the brush when it is in his mouth, and that’s fine. Again, keep the experience friendly and low key, and praise your dog often. After several times, your dog will be used to the idea of this “strange” object in his mouth. Next, put a tiny amount of toothpaste on your finger and let your dog lick it. Since most dog toothpastes are designed to be palatable to dogs, your dog most likely will enjoy this.
Brushing The Teeth
Now you ready to put it all together and brush your dog’s teeth. Begin at the back and work forward using a soft circular motion rather than a back and forth motion. Concentrate on the teeth themselves and the gumline. Although dogs have 42 teeth, it's the upper canines – the “fangs” – and the premolars – the back teeth - that accumulate the most tartar, so pay special attention to these areas.
Thanks to Dogged Health for this article!