How to Clean Your Dog's Teeth

Updated on July 16, 2019
angela_michelle profile image

Having been a cat and dog lover her entire life, she has made special efforts to learn as much as she can about the animals she cares for.

Keep Smile White
Keep Smile White | Source

Dental Health for Dogs

Keeping your dog's teeth healthy is an essential duty, along with clipping their nails, protecting them from bad 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. This 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 brushing 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. | Source

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 begin brushing his teeth, raise his lower and upper lips and massage the area for thirty 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 flavor, but not the brushing, it's better to brush without anything than not brush at all.
  • Getting Prepared: Before you bring your dog into have his teeth brushed, you want to set up the area and have everything within hand's reach. For instance, already put 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 important to make sure your dog is prepared. 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. This will eliminate the battles that could ensue if you choose a time when your dog is hyper and playful.
  • Beginning Brushing Their Teeth: Once you are prepared, you will want to have your dog in a position where you can be face to face. This 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 up 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 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. Really 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. | Source

How Often to Clean a Dog's Teeth

There is a wide debate on how often you should clean your dog's teeth. You will hear some say every day; others will say once a week. I personally would aim for whenever you give your dog a bath. Usually I will clip my dog's nails, bathe, and all other grooming things in the same day. We also give him a lot of teeth-healthy toys like doggy designed rope, milk-bones; plus 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 needs a 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. | Source

Side Effects for Dogs With Bad Teeth

Bad dental care causes problems for up to 80 percent of dog's over the age of three. Dental problems does not only affect the teeth, but also the liver, heart, intestinal tract, kidneys, and even joints! The reason for this is because the bacteria that is 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 actually 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 breath may smell like the food they last ate, which is not the most favorable smell, but your dog's breath should never be intolerable.
  • Gums should be pink and close to the teeth. If their gums are red, swollen, or receding from the gum-line, 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 big indicator 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 chewing usually 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.

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


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      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        24 months ago from United States

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

      • profile image


        2 years ago

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

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        6 years ago from United States

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

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 

        6 years ago from USA

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        7 years ago from United States

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

      • yellowstar2000 profile image

        Candice Collins 

        7 years ago from WestCoast Florida

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        7 years ago from United States

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

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 

        7 years ago from USA

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        7 years ago from United States

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

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        7 years ago

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        7 years ago from United States

        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 profile image


        7 years ago from America

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

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        7 years ago from United States

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

      • KarenCreftor profile image

        Karen Creftor 

        7 years ago from Kent, UK

        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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