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Does My Dog Need Her Teeth Brushed Every Day?

Updated on April 18, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

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If your small dog has good dentition, brushing can be minimal.Chews can help keep the teeth clean.Rope toys can act like dental floss.
If your small dog has good dentition, brushing can be minimal.
If your small dog has good dentition, brushing can be minimal. | Source
Chews can help keep the teeth clean.
Chews can help keep the teeth clean.
Rope toys can act like dental floss.
Rope toys can act like dental floss.

Do I Really Need To Brush My Dog's Teeth Every Day?

If your dog has a large mouth and his teeth are spaced far apart (like those of Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Pit Bulls, and other breeds with healthy and normal mouths), if he keeps his mouth closed except when panting, and if his teeth are “scissor” type and come together neatly in the front, you do not need to worry much about dental disease and can probably get by with giving your dog plenty of things to chew on.

The CET chews are helpful, as are plain rawhide strips, rope toys, and whole raw bones. (Do not feed your dog bones that have been sawed like steak bones, pork chop bones, or rib bones.)

If your dog has a short upper or lower jaw and his teeth do not come together (like pugs, bulldogs, shih tzus, boxers, and other brachycephalic breeds), he breathes through an open mouth, or he has normal jaws but they are tiny and the teeth are too close together (like the Maltese, Yorkie, Miniature Pinscher, and some other small breeds) daily brushing is vital to prevent tartar buildup, gingivitis, and the eventual development of periodontal disease.

Do Puppies Need Their Teeth Brushed Daily Too?

Some people argue "his teeth are going to fall out anyway". Do not think that way.

If you start out with a puppy and teach the little guy that daily brushing is normal it will not be a problem for you to complete this task each day. The biggest headache in my experience is when owners ignore the problem until the dog is several years old and early periodontal disease is diagnosed during a visit to the vet. She needs a professional cleaning to start but after that requires daily brushing and is not used to the owner sticking fingers or other foreign objects into the mouth.

Older dogs have a difficult time accepting this procedure. Start when your dog is still a puppy.

This is what your dogs mouth will look like if you do not brush the teeth.
This is what your dogs mouth will look like if you do not brush the teeth. | Source

How to Brush My Dog's Teeth

If you have never brushed your older dogs teeth before, take her in for an exam. She might need a good scaling, ultrasonic scraping, and polishing. If there are already pockets of infection your vet might recommend she be put on antibiotics and have her toys taken away until things clear up.

As soon as the teeth are clean it is up to you to keep them that way.

  • If she is small put her up on a table because dogs feel overwhelmed when you are leaning over them.
  • The first day just put your finger under the lips and give her a lot of praise. You can let her lick a little toothpaste off of the tip of your finger just to get used to the taste. (Never use human toothpaste as there is no way to spit it up and it will upset her stomach.) Don’t stress her out. Let her smell her new toothbrush (I like the finger toothbrush because a lot of dogs seem a lot less threatened by a fingertip in the mouth) and give her a treat, keeping it a positive experience.
  • The next day put her up on the table again and let her smell the toothbrush, give her a small piece of cheese or other tasty treat, and touch her teeth a little more. It will take about a week if you go slowly but at the end of that time she should allow you to give the teeth a proper cleaning.

Simple, isnt it? If you cannot handle her find a behaviorist or trainer that is willing to work with her and teach you what needs to be done so that she will be more amenable and accept your help. Don’t ignore the problem or she will pay for it and she will eventually suffer for your lack of effort.

Your friend deserves your time and effort!


I prefer to brush my dog´s teeth with a finger brush with a toothpaste. Some people will brush the teeth dry, but if you use one of the chicken or beef flavored dog toothpastes your dog is more willing to accept the procedure.

What Happens If You Are Too Busy to Brush Your Dog's Teeth?

Taking in and caring for a dog seems like a lot of work sometimes. You have to feed her, train her not to tear up your house, and walk her. On top of all of that, you are also expected to brush her teeth every day.

Why not just ignore this chore and enjoy the dog?

If you ignore this problem, there are consequences, and bad breath is only one of them. Your dogs gums will become inflamed and pockets of pus will develop. She will have loose teeth, a sore mouth, and eventually will have a sore stomach and bowel problems from having to swallow all that pus. When she eats the bacteria will be released into the bloodstream and it can be lodged on the lining of the heart (endocarditis) and can eventually lead to congestive heart failure. The bacteria are also filtered out by the kidneys and liver so she might also have problems with those two vital organs.

Avoid those problems. Start brushing your dogs teeth every day.

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    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Definitely. My Pit is fine without just chewing (she shreds coconut every day, which is kind of like flossing) but smaller breeds definitely need help.

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      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      Cool. Brushing only on the outside is significantly better than not brushing at all. Would that be an appropriate statement?

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Most of the plaque and tartar we deal with when cleaning is on the outside so there is not much need to open the mouth. It does make it a lot easier and it definitely needs to be done on the little ones.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      I meant not opening the dog's mouth to get the inside, but just lifting the lip and brushing with the teeth closed.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I really do not know how they were basing their estimate. Most of the problems start on the outside of the teeth with plaque leading to tartar leading to gum disease, so brushing would prevent almost everything (there would be a very few with gingivitis secondary t medications, internal diseases, etc).

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      I read somewhere that something like 96% of dental problems occur on the outside of dogs' teeth. Do you know if this is true? If so, that would make brushing teeth easier for a lot of owners.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Since cats are obligate carnivores the food companies have not been able to sell as much junk as they have for dogs. There are a lot of good cat foods out there so I really can not recommend one over the other.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Hi, DrMark--just came back to these comments. I've looked for different foods for my dog but don't know what's best. I have 5 cats and don't know if I can afford the best with them. They do well....I'm going to read your hub on premium foods. Thanks!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Victoria Lynn. There is always a risk, it is based on the examination of his heart, lungs, pre-anesthetic blood work(on an 8 yr old dog it is worthwhile paying the extra 50 bucks for the blood work. I have a 14 yr old Maltese and would never put him under wout bloodwork). But is the risk greater than the periodontal disease, secondary vegetative endocarditis, liver failure, etc? Not usually.

      Did you see my hub about premium foods and longevity? I wrote it after reading your hub about frugality. I watched an Iams commercial after that and noticed they are careful to never state anything definite, just that their dog food makes dogs healtheir thus they live longer, neither of which they can prove.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      DrMark--is there any danger with anesthesia for a dog at 8 years old? He's a shih tzu, pekingnese, terrier mix. You're right about him looking a lot like a Maltese. He weighs about 17 lbs. Thanks!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      It would be hard for me to say without probing but just looking at his picture (a Maltese cross?) I would think he would have problems, would definitely be one of the dogs who would suffer from secondary diseases if the teeth are not cared for properly

      I had to put my Maltese under anesthesia every year when he was younger!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      My dog doesn't fight too much when I brush his teeth. I don't do it very often, so I'm bad about that. The vet says he has only slight issues. Do you think him going under for a teeth cleaning is worth it? I worry too much about anesthesia, I guess. I don't know whether or not to start fresh in that way or just brush as well as I can from now on and see how it goes.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks Kristen. I want to put a lik in for your page for those not able to do the necessary brushing every day

    • Kristen Haynie profile image

      Kristen Haynie 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      This is great information! Very helpful and informative!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for the comment Nadene

      I have a Pit cross at the moment and she does not need daily toothbrushing because she shreds coconut every time we go for a walk, but my Maltese was like your Pom, a sad case because of his tiny mouth. Anyone willing to get a small dog or a dog with a brachycephalic skull needs to be willing to take extra care of them.

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 5 years ago from Elverson, PA

      Wow! I really liked this article. I have two dogs and they do not have any dental disease because I give them plenty to chew on, plus neither of them are a small breed. I did have a Pomeranian I rescued off the street that had to have over ten teeth pulled in one surgery, it was horrific and expensive. I never got the chance to teach him to have his teeth brushed. He died of a brain tumor. But in the future I would like to get another small dog and this is great advice on how to train them!

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