Acclimate your dog to the tooth-brushing process when he’s a puppy, if possible, so he becomes comfortable with you looking at his teeth, opening his mouth, and smelling his breath.
Establishing a “normal” baseline is important, because it’ll help you recognize changes, such as reddened or puffy gums, cracked or broken teeth, growths, swellings, discharges from the teeth and gums, or a change in breath. (If you notice any changes, schedule an appointment with us so we can do a thorough exam.)
Here’s a 7-step process to help your dog get used to having his teeth brushed:
First, you’ll want to get your dog used to having your hands near his mouth. For a few days, gently run your fingers around his lips and the outside of his mouth (muzzle) until he gets comfortable with you touching around his mouth (praise your dog and reward him with a treat).
Once he’s comfortable with that, gently lift his lips and run your fingers along his teeth and gums for a few days.
Find out which pet-approved toothpaste your dog likes. Don’t use human toothpaste, which usually contains fluoride, a substance that can be toxic if swallowed (and dogs can’t spit in the sink, nor do they rinse their mouths after brushing). Some toothpastes for humans contain a sweetener called xylatol, which can be deadly for dogs.
Get a couple of enticing-to-dogs flavors such as beef and poultry. Let your dog taste-test the toothpaste. Put a pea-sized dab of toothpaste on your clean finger, and allow your dog to lick it off your finger. If he likes the flavor, the tooth-brushing experience will be more pleasant for both of you.
Using a veterinarian-approved toothbrush that’s the correct size for your dog’s mouth, add a dab of toothpaste to the brush and gently brush his front teeth and the adjacent gum line for a couple of seconds, using a small circular motion. Do this for a few days to help your dog get used to the tooth-brushing experience.
Over the course of several days, slowly work your way to the back of the mouth, brushing on the outside of the teeth. Ninety-six percent of tartar is on the outside of a dog’s teeth, so don’t worry about brushing the inside of your dog’s teeth; his tongue will keep the inside of the teeth fairly clean.
Gradually work up to brushing both sides of your dog’s mouth for 30 seconds per day.
After every session, lavishly praise your dog and reward him with a crunchy veggie treat.
Monthly and Yearly Checks
Once a month, do a thorough check inside your dog’s mouth to see whether you notice any unusual changes.
Once a year, schedule an oral health exam. Every 1-3 years (depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation), schedule a professional dental cleaning.
Wellness Plans Make Routine Dental Healthcare Affordable
Atlantic Veterinary Hospital’s Wellness Plans are a program we designed to save you money on important preventive healthcare services for your furry family members.
Each Wellness Plan provides all essential preventive healthcare services we recommend for one year, plus discounts on any additional care your pet may need. Some of our plans include additional services like a professional dental cleaning and full-mouth digital dental radiographs.
Wellness Plan costs have some built-in discounts and spread the cost of care over 12 months with zero interest, allowing you to budget for your pet’s care. If you’d like to learn more about our affordable wellness plans, give us a call at 206-323-4433.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth (video) – White Cross Vets