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How to Clean Your Dog's Teeth

Angela is a cat and dog lover who has made special efforts to learn as much as she can about the animals she cares for.

Learn how to keep that gorgeous smile nice and white.

Learn how to keep that gorgeous smile nice and white.

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Keeping your dog's teeth healthy is an essential duty, along with clipping their nails, protecting them from harmful plants, and playing games with them. Tartar buildup can lead to several health issues, even problems with the heart. Some pet owners choose to take their dog to a vet to have his/her teeth cleaned professionally, which usually costs at least $150 without pet insurance, which is why many people choose to brush their dog's teeth at home.

It is ideal to start cleaning them while they are puppies so they can gradually get used to it. When you decide to start brushing, make sure you always use dog toothpaste, not human toothpaste. They cannot spit, and human toothpaste is not intended to be swallowed. If you use human toothpaste, this can cause an upset stomach, and the contents of their lunch may end up on your floor.

Average Dog Dental Care Cost

Dental Procedure

Approximate Cost

Vet Cleaning with Anesthetic Workup

$250-350 a visit

Vet Cleaning without Anesthetic Workup

$100-250 a visit

Home Daily Cleaning

$30-60 a year

Home Weekly Cleaning

$15-30 a year

Tooth Extraction due to Bad Teeth Care

$600-1,000 a visit

Dog With Plaque on His Teeth

This dog has nice white teeth,except some plaque in the back. For this reason, it is important to focus on the back teeth of your dog.

This dog has nice white teeth,except some plaque in the back. For this reason, it is important to focus on the back teeth of your dog.

How Do You Brush a Dog's Teeth

  • Ways to Prepare Your Dog: Before you begin brushing your dog's teeth, it is a good idea to get him used to you touching his lips. For a few weeks before you start brushing his teeth, raise his lower and upper lips, and massage the area for 30 seconds at a time. Watch his reactions. Once he seems relaxed while you are doing this, then he is ready to have his teeth brushed. Another good idea is to put a little toothpaste in his mouth to get him used to the flavor. If your dog is resistant to the taste, but not the brushing, it is better to brush without anything rather than avoiding it altogether.
  • Getting Prepared: Before you bring your dog in to have his teeth brushed, you want to set up the area and have everything within hand's reach, including putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush, so the dog does not have to wait for you to do this. The idea is that you want to minimize the dog's discomfort and finish as quickly as possible. It is also essential to make sure your dog is ready. If he wants to play, he will not be very tolerant of getting his teeth brushed. You will want to make sure that he is relaxed and calm, which will eliminate the battles that could ensue if you choose a time when your dog is hyper and playful.
  • Beginning Brushing Their Teeth: Once prepared, you will want to have your dog in a position where you can be face to face, which may mean you need to sit on the floor or place him in your lap. If possible, it is often a good idea to have a second person there to comfort him and talk to your dog to help him feel at ease, as well as to gently hold him still. The second person talking to your dog will help distract them, especially during times when you may need to add toothpaste.
  • Brushing Their Teeth: It's ideal to use a toothbrush, but not all dogs will be willing to use one. In cases where your dog is resistant to a toothbrush, you can use a wet washcloth or gauze on your finger. Another alternative to a brush is a rubber surface cap that goes on your finger, which acts like a toothbrush. You can find these at most pet stores. To begin brushing their teeth, lift their upper lip and brush in a circular pattern making sure to get the gum line. Continue around the mouth doing top teeth first. Then begin doing the bottom. The bottom will be trickier since your dog will most likely keep his teeth shut, and the bottom teeth will be a little hidden. Focus on the back teeth; this is where plaque gets built up the most and can do the most damage.
It's important that you give your dog things to chew. This will help take plaque off their teeth.

It's important that you give your dog things to chew. This will help take plaque off their teeth.

How Often to Clean a Dog's Teeth

There is an extensive debate on how often you should clean your dog's teeth. You will hear some say every day; others will report once a week. I would aim for whenever you bathe your dog. Usually, I will clip my dog's nails, wash, and all other grooming things on the same day. We also give him a lot of teeth-healthy toys like doggy designed rope and milk bones. We always feed him dry dog food, which helps strengthen his teeth.

Then once a year, when you talk to your vet, ask him/her if he/she feels like the dog's teeth need professional cleaning. Some vets encourage you to have them cleaned professionally once a year, regardless of teeth health. Others are less conservative and will truly assess your dog's teeth per visit. If you are brushing regularly, they may let you know they do not feel a vet dental visit is important. Either way, the vet should at least assess the dental health of your dog.

Begin taking care of your dog's teeth while it is a puppy, this way it will be used to it early on.

Begin taking care of your dog's teeth while it is a puppy, this way it will be used to it early on.

Side Effects for Dogs With Bad Teeth

Inadequate dental care causes problems for up to 80 percent of dogs over the age of three. Dental issues not only affect the teeth, but also the liver, heart, intestinal tract, kidneys, and even joints! Bacteria gathered in the mouth due to bad teeth will eventually be swallowed and begin to spread throughout the rest of the body. These bacteria can cause problems throughout your pet's body.

Signs Your Dog's Teeth May Need to be Seen by the Vet

  • Dog's breath should never be offensive. Their breathing may smell like the food they last ate, which is not the most pleasant smell, but your dog's breath should never be intolerable.
  • The gums should be pink and close to the teeth. If their gums are red, swollen, or receding from the gumline, then you should have a vet look at your dog's teeth.
  • When you brush his teeth, his gums should not bleed. Bleeding gums is a sign of gingivitis.
  • Whining while chewing on toys is a significant indicator that something is wrong. You may find your puppy does this when their baby teeth are falling out, but they should not do that once all their adult teeth are in. You may also see a sudden resistance in usually chewing beloved chew toys.

Sometimes you can not get around to brushing your dog's teeth as often as you should; therefore, make sure you have a lot of hard toys they can chew on to help strengthen their teeth. Milk bones are great for cleaning their teeth in between but do not solely rely on them, as plaque will still build up.

Easy Ways to Clean Your Dog's Teeth

Here are some supplemental methods to keep your dog's teeth clean in-between brushing sessions:

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on September 24, 2017:

Personally, I think natural is best. No brand in particular.

artsr06 on August 30, 2017:

Thank you for the Information. Do you have a recommended Toothpaste and brush?

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 06, 2012:

That's great your dog let's you do it!

Shasta Matova from USA on October 05, 2012:

This is very informative and encouraging. My dog (I got him from the pound when he was an adult) doesn't like his teeth brushed, although he will let me do it. I guess I need to insist more often. Voted up.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on September 07, 2012:

If he has really bad smelling breath, it may be gingivitus, you may consider talking them about bringing it to the vet.

Candice Collins from WestCoast Florida on September 07, 2012:

thanks so much for this great and informative hub! voted up!! I'm sharing it with my parents for Teddy their adorable little Shitzu (lol..spelling?)... heh heh, he's got some serious breath, and this may do the trick!! :)

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on July 08, 2012:

Skeezix just wants to chew and play with the toothbrush, so I use my finger.

Barbara Badder from USA on July 07, 2012:

This is a job that I need to do on Beau. I have trouble doing it. Either they want to suck on the toothbrush or don't want to hold still. Pinned and shared.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on June 13, 2012:

I actually think that is the most important step. If you get your dog prepared, the rest will come quite easy.

Dianna Mendez on June 13, 2012:

This was very informative and has important details for the dog owner on brushing teeth. Your prep advice is one that I would not have thought of and it is something that will help the dog get used to the process. WEll DONE! Voted up, up.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on June 13, 2012:

You may benefit from a rubber cap you can find at pet stores, intended for brushing dog's teth. Also just make sure you massage his cheeks to get used to you touching him in this area.

moonlake from America on June 12, 2012:

Great hub. Good information. Voted up. Wish my dog would let me brush his teeth.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on June 12, 2012:

I thought that puppy was irresistible as well. I am so glad that you found the information thorough.

Karen Creftor from Kent, UK on June 12, 2012:

Great hub! Very informative and thorough thank you Angela :D

LOVE the top picture as well, made me giggle hehe

~Kaz x

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