How to Take Care of Dogs’ Teeth: An at-Home Guide
For many puppy parents, the best part of a long workday or grocery shopping trip is finally getting home. That’s because there’s always a big smile waiting for you — not to mention a wagging tail!
It’s true that dogs have their own ways of smiling at their people. That’s why regular dental care is an important part of pet parenthood — and you can do most of it without leaving home. All you need is a doggy toothbrush, pet-safe toothpaste and a treat or two.
Here’s your at-home guide on how to take care of dogs’ teeth.
How Important is Doggy Dental Care?
You already know how important it is to take care of your own teeth. Just like you, your dog’s overall physical health depends on having that healthy smile, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA). That’s why it’s important to “brush up on” a few key dental terms:
- Plaque is the same stuff you brush off your own teeth. It’s a buildup of food and saliva living on the tooth’s enamel. Left unchecked, plaque becomes tartar.
- Tartar is plaque’s older, more sinister sibling. It hardens over time and collects more food particles and minerals. The longer it stays on the tooth, the more damage it can do to gums and enamel, eventually leading to issues like periodontal disease.
- Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue in dogs, according to the AVMA. It can cause gum inflammation, bad breath, loose teeth and even eventual tooth loss. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association reports that between 80% and 90% of dogs will show evidence of the disease by the age of two.
- Halitosis is a medical term for “bad breath,” and it’s often caused by periodontal disease. It’s also a sign that your pup needs some dental care.
How to Take Care of Dogs’ Teeth From Home
You don’t need a degree in dentistry to take care of dogs’ teeth. Just follow these five simple steps:
#1: Get the Right Gear
Don’t reach for that old toothbrush. Dogs actually benefit from having specialty toothbrushes with soft bristles and longer handles, making them better suited to your pup’s snout and tooth size. This doesn’t just remove plaque and tartar more effectively — a longer and better reach helps you navigate that slobbery face. It’s also important to choose pet-safe toothpaste. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), many human toothpastes include an artificial sweetener called Xylitol, which could harm your dog’s liver. Plus, dog toothpaste often has pup-friendly flavors, making the brushing process more enjoyable for Rover.
#2: Create a Calm Environment
Don’t brush your dog’s teeth when they’re nervous or excited. Instead, wait until they’re relaxed and bring them to a calm, quiet area. It’s also smart to remove distractions — like kids, toys or other pets — until the at-home dental checkup is complete.
#3: Take It One Step at a Time
If your dog isn’t the biggest fan of oral hygiene, take the brushing process one step at a time. Begin by rubbing a finger across the gums to get your pup used to the feeling. You can also try brushing one or two teeth per session to keep from making your dog too uncomfortable.
#4: Use Good Brushing Techniques
Just like your own teeth, a dog’s smile needs a little extra care. Brush in slow, gentle circles, making sure not to press too hard. Also make sure to clean each tooth from every angle so you don’t miss any hidden plaque.
#5: Keep a Snack on Hand
When you’re done brushing, reward your pup with a cookie, healthy treat or favorite toy. This helps make toothbrushing a positive experience — one your dog may look forward to next time.
Tips for an Even Healthier Smile
A toothbrush and chicken-flavored toothpaste isn’t the only way to take care of dogs’ teeth. There are plenty of other options to keep that smile clean in between brushing:
What’s more fun than a chewy toy? A chewy toy with a job! Dental chews encourage dogs to work the plaque off their teeth just by playing. A variety of shapes and sizes means you’ll find the perfect fit for any pup.
Dental snacks aren’t just a tasty treat for your furry friend. They’re also great for chewing, which helps remove plaque. Meanwhile, a mix of ingredients helps freshen breath and keep your dog’s mouth clean.
Some types of dental care are as easy as taking a drink. Water additives are liquids that include healthy enzymes, and they get to work on those pearly whites every time your dog heads to the water bowl. It’s like a dentist in a bottle — just add a few drops per the additive’s instructions and you’re good to go.
Another way to protect your dog’s smile is to research issues specific to their breed. For example, according to PetMD, certain dogs are more susceptible to periodontal disease, including small and toy breeds, as well as those with shortened snouts (like pugs).
Even the best brushing habits won’t get you out of a visit to the dentist, and the same is true for your pup. According to the AVMA, your dog needs a regular dental checkup every year to help protect that happy smile. However, if you see certain dental issues or symptoms, you should make an appointment with your vet right away. These symptoms include:
- Broken or loose teeth.
- Gum or mouth bleeding.
- Extreme mouth sensitivity.
- Refusal to eat.
Make Brushing a Breeze with Help from Pet Supermarket
At Pet Supermarket, we speak pet — and we’ve heard from a pup or two that brushing isn’t always fun. That’s why our associates are always available to help out. With more than 40 years of experience in the pet care industry, we’ve spent our fair share of time trading toothbrushing sessions for belly rubs. We’ve got all the right tips and tricks up our sleeves, and we can point you toward the best dental supplies including tooth brushes, toothpastes, toys and chews.
Visit your nearest Pet Supermarket for more on how to take care of dogs’ teeth.