Giving your dog’s teeth a regular brush is a great way to prevent plaque build-up. Make sure to use toothpaste specifically designed for dogs and never use your own toothpaste, as it contains ingredients which can upset your dog’s digestion. If your dog isn’t already used to the idea of getting their teeth brushed, it is unlikely they will accept the experience straight away, so you’ll need to ease into it over time.
Home dental care should begin at 8–12 weeks of age. Brushing is not critical until the adult teeth erupt, but starting early allows the animal to become accustomed to the procedure during an impressionable period of development.
Start by using your finger to rub the top and bottom of their teeth and gums. Once they’re used to that, you can slowly begin to introduce a toothbrush. However, make sure you allow your dog to adapt at their own pace. Slowly build up the amount of time spent brushing, gradually introduce a toothbrush into the routine and only begin really cleaning your dog’s teeth and gums properly once they are comfortable with the process.
Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily or thrice/twice weekly. Also, be sure to brush over your dog’s gum line, as this is where plaque and tartar stick. Another excellent way to combat plaque is to give your dog dental treats that can help loosen plaque and remove debris as they chew.
- Regardless of age, introduce brushing slowly and gradually, allowing the animal to determine the amount of time at each stage.
- As each step is begun, observe for the animal’s reaction and only advance to the next step once the animal is comfortable.
- Massage the animal’s muzzle and lips gently
- Introduce your finger dipped in meat soup or garlic water (canine) or tuna water (feline) into the buccal pouch under the upper lip and rub the gum line.
- Introduce your finger covered with a gauze, washcloth, or pantyhose and rub the gum line and teeth in a circular motion.
- Introduce a pet toothbrush or a very soft human toothbrush held at a 45° angle to the tooth surface, brushing in an oval motion.
- Introduce the toothbrush with veterinary toothpaste.
- As the animal accepts the procedure, brushing of the lingual surfaces can begin.
- Place the non-brushing hand over the muzzle and tilt head backward to open the animal’s mouth.
- Brush the visible teeth (opposite side) and then repeat on the other side.
A change in diet to a formula specifically catered to dogs prone to dental health issues can also be a great way to clean your dog’s teeth – especially when they are still getting used to daily teeth brushing. Specialised formulas reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar due to the kibble’s texture having a brushing effect on their teeth.
- Human toothpaste, baking soda, or hydrogen peroxide
- Heavy restraint
- Brushing aggressively
- Brushing if the procedure may cause pain (e.g., recent thorough oral examination, exposed pulp cavities, gingivitis, ulcerations, tooth mobility)
- Natural bones, cow hooves, hard nylon toys as they may fracture teeth