Brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t just about fresh breath. It’s an essential part of good oral care, and good oral care is important to your dog’s overall health.

Although most people aren’t aware of it, periodontal – or gum disease – is a common, serious problem in dogs. Yet brushing your dog’s teeth can prevent it! Veterinarians estimate that 85% of dogs over five years of age suffer from periodontal disease, which develops when food particles and bacteria collect along the gum line and form soft deposits called plaque.

Over time, the plaque turns into rock-hard tartar. If tartar isn’t removed from your dog’s teeth, it will eventually inflame his gums. As the inflamed gums begin to separate from the teeth, pockets form in which more bacteria grows, causing periodontal disease to worsen.

At this point, your dog can experience severe pain, lose teeth, form abscesses in his mouth and develop a bacterial infection that can spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys, liver, heart or brain.

Periodontal disease is irreversible, so now is a great time to get started on a regular oral-care regimen for your dog. Prevention is the key to keeping him healthy and happy.

What you will need:

Doggie toothpaste
Doggie toothbrush or washcloth or gauze to wrap around your finger

The cleaning process

  1. Gather all of your supplies and prep as much as possible prior to starting. Choose whether you will be cleaning with a toothbrush, washcloth or gauze wrapped around your finger and apply a small amount of the doggie toothpaste to the tip.
  2. It is best to complete this cleaning when your dog is relaxed. If your dog is ready to play, it may be difficult to get him to sit still while you clean.
  3. Find a position that allows you to easily access your dog’s mouth/teeth.
  4. Gently lift the upper lip on one side and begin brushing in a circular motion. Refresh with more toothpaste as needed.
  5. As you are brushing and cleaning, ensure to clean the gum line (where the teeth meet the gums) because this is where many problems start.
  6. Work your way around the mouth, brushing each tooth. Use care to thoroughly clean the back teeth as this is where many problems can occur as well.
  7. When all of the top teeth are cleaned, continue with the same procedure to clean the bottom teeth.
  8. Complete this cleaning two – three times a week.

Additional tips and advice

  • Did you know that your pet’s “dog breath” does not always have to be bad; in fact, if your dog has bad breath, it can be a sign of a problem with their teeth.
  • If your dog will not tolerate the toothbrush, try a nubby-surfaced rubber cap. These are like rubber toothbrushes that you place on the top of your finger and provide a gentler cleaning than bristled brushes. It also gives you a good feel of where you’re brushing since it’s right on your fingertip.
  • Only use dental products designed specifically for dogs. Do not use human toothpaste for your dog as it is not designed to be swallowed and dogs cannot spit. Anything that you use to clean their teeth will be swallowed, so ensure it’s made for them.
  • Feed your dog hard dog biscuits or hard dog food each day and a hard bone or toy to chew on to keep their teeth strong.
  • It may be helpful to have another person around to help you when you are cleaning your dog’s teeth for the first few times, even if it’s just to help keep your dog calm during the process.
  • When in doubt, always seek the advice of a veterinarian. Ask them to walk you through the cleaning process to ensure that you are getting all the important spots.
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