Dental diseases are one of the most common health concerns amongst dogs over three years old, with two-thirds being affected. Teeth issues like periodontal disease can be incredibly painful for your four-legged friend and lead to tooth loss. Tooth-related diseases occur from plaque buildup, but you can prevent this by regularly brushing your dog's teeth. Therefore, tooth brushing is an essential aspect of caring for your pet and part of our dog grooming guide. If you're not sure how to brush dog teeth, don't worry, as we'll explain everything you need to know below.
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog's Teeth?
It may come as a surprise, but you should brush your dog's teeth as much as your own. Brushing once or twice a day is ideal, so we recommend involving your pup in your dental hygiene routine if you have the time. By brushing your dog's teeth after brushing your own, it's easy to remember this essential part of pet care. If you lead a busy life, you might be wondering if it is essential to brush a canine's teeth every day. While we recommend daily brushing, we understand that this isn't possible for every pet owner. Therefore, you should aim to brush your dog's teeth at least 1 or 2 times per week. Suppose you have a canine older than three years which you've never brushed their teeth. In that case, they will be more at risk of developing periodontal disease than a young pup. So, try to brush once or twice a day for the first few weeks, and then if daily brushing is too much, you can reduce the frequency. Also, note that other dental products are available. For example, you'll find dental treats and water additives specifically made for dogs, which are an excellent alternative to give on the days you are not brushing.
What You Need For Brushing Dog Teeth
To start your dog's teeth brushing routine, all you need is a pet-friendly toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste. You can often buy these two products together in a set. Dog toothbrushes look a bit different from human ones. They often have angled handles, and some have multiple heads, allowing you to clean all around their mouth effectively. There are also finger-style dog toothbrushes designed to fit over the tip of your finger. Finger toothbrushes are ideal for small dogs, but you'll need a brush with a handle for larger pups. Never use an adult human toothbrush on your pup as they are not soft enough. However, if you struggle to find a dog-specific brush, you can try a soft baby toothbrush.
Can Dogs Use Human Toothpaste?
If you're wondering, "is toothpaste bad for dogs" the answer is it depends. Dog-specific toothpastes are safe for your pup to swallow and contain no toxic ingredients. What’s more, they have enticing flavors like chicken or beef to help make the process easier. However, you should never use human toothpaste on a dog as most contain the foaming agent fluoride. Unfortunately, if your pup swallows this, it can upset its stomach. Some also have the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is highly toxic to canines, or high sodium levels that can be dangerous.
How To Brush Dog's Teeth
If you're brushing an adult dog's teeth for the first time, they might resist this new activity initially. It usually takes a few times for your dog to get comfortable and enjoy it. So like with all training processes, patience is vital. Here are the steps to follow when learning how to brush dog's teeth:
1. Let them sample the toothpaste
Before sticking a strange brush in your dog's mouth, let them taste the toothpaste. Either offer a small amount on your finger or the toothbrush to do this. Then, your dog will see that this new product will not cause harm or danger and is actually pretty tasty.
2. Get them familiar with mouth handling
Before brushing, you should first get your canine familiar with having something in their mouth, so take a few occasions to rub your finger along your pup's. Remember to give them a treat after doing so to help them associate this action with something good.
3. Get them into a comfortable position
Next, make sure they are comfortable and relaxed and not in a playful or mischievous mood. Most dogs won't sit still for the time required to brush their teeth, and some will start to squirm. Therefore, try to restrain them without causing them distress. If you have a small dog, you can burrito wrap them in a towel, and hold them in between your thighs when sitting down. For larger dogs, sit next to them on the sofa. Then wrap one arm around their body and pull them close to you to limit their movement. Next, use your forearm to support their chin, keeping the other hand free for brushing.
4. Lift their lips rather than open their mouth
There's no need to pull your dog's mouth open to brush its teeth. Instead, gently lift their lips to reveal their teeth and slide the toothbrush in.
5. Start with the back teeth
Although the front teeth are most accessible, the back teeth are much more likely to contain plaque and tartar buildup. So begin brushing here, using small, circular movements.
6. Find the correct pressure and timing
You don't want to press too firmly, but the pressure should not be so gentle that it doesn't remove anything. Instead, aim for medium pressure and spend between 10 to 30 seconds brushing one side of the back teeth before switching to the other side.
7. Brush the front teeth
After brushing the back teeth, move to the front ones. You'll need to hold down the button lip or slightly open their mouth to reach the lower front teeth. Keep in mind that brushing the inside teeth might seem too intrusive at first, and many dogs may not cooperate. What's more, plague and tartar buildup are much more common on the outer parts of the teeth. However, if your pup enjoys the brushing session, there's no reason not to brush the inside.
8. Reward your pup
Always offer your dog a treat and lots of praise after brushing their teeth, no matter how short the session was. You can also give them one in between each section if needed. If your dog is particularly unsure about tooth brushing, start with short sessions, then slowly build up the duration as they become more comfortable. Never force a dog to stay in a position where they are visibly distressed. If it's too much for your dog, let them take a break and try again later.
How To Brush Puppy Teeth
Brushing a puppy's teeth is usually easier than cleaning an adult dog's mouth. As canines are receptive to training at this young age, starting a dental hygiene routine while your dog is a baby is best. As they become comfortable with it at an early age, they will continue to enjoy the process as they grow up. Plus, regular brushing will keep that foul puppy breath at bay! To brush a puppy's teeth, follow the step-by-step guide above. However, there are a couple of extra things to take into consideration.
Watch for biting
Some puppies like to bite, especially if they are teething. They are also much more playful than adult dogs and may assume you are playing with them when you try to brush their teeth. Therefore, don't attempt to do so if they are in a playful or biting mood. Instead, try to do it when they are sleepy. If they do try to bite, stop and try again later. Moreover, if you think your puppy may be teething, ensure they have plenty of suitable toys to chew on so they are less likely to chew your finger or the toothbrush.
Try different styles of toothbrushes
Some puppies will accept your finger rather than a foreign object. So, if they don't take to a toothbrush with a handle, try a finger-style one. As their mouths are so small at this age, these types of toothbrushes usually work well.