I am so glad to hear how many of you make a regular effort to brush your dog’s teeth! You could NOT imagine the teeth that I see at my vet clinic (and smell). It makes you want to vomit. The health of the teeth and mouth of your dog goes side-by-side with the overall health of your dog. If you only brush your dog’s teeth once a year, just think of the damage that is occuring that you cannot see! Not all plaque is visible. Without brushing, plaque can build up, putting your dog at risk for bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. It can also cause painful infections. Severe infections can spread, causing life-threatening conditions, especially with the heart.
Brushing a dog’s teeth, especially a puppy who wants to chew, and dogs who aren’t used to it can be a real chore. But DON’T GIVE UP! It is so vitally important that you keep your dog’s mouth clean, just like you keep your mouth clean. Chewing on bones and hard toys only do so much. It is YOUR responsibility to keep your dog’s mouth in tip top shape!
There are many brushes out there for dogs. Make sure that you use only dog appropriate cleaning tools. There are regular brushes, some with multiple sections of bristles, finger brushes, dental wipes, and much more. Sometimes you may need a combination of things. I use a finger brush for the front, a longer brush for the back, and dental wipes in between brushing days. Your vet would be the best person to ask about tools and methods. Vets are more than happy to help out when it comes to dental care in dogs, as they know how important dental care is! I have had my hands in many mouths of dogs showing owners ways to brush their teeth. Vets are willing to take the time to show you how. Sometimes it takes two people, but it is worth it! Like everything else, it needs to be a positive experience! Pinning a dog down to force strange objects in his mouth will only cause stress.
Make sure you’re in a spot where your dog is comfortable. I like to brush my dog’s teeth on our bed. She plays and sleeps on our bed, so she feels comfortable there. Don’t stand above your dog, hold her down, or take a threatening stance. Instead, try kneeling or sitting in front of or to the side of her. Gauge your dog’s anxiety level. If she seems upset, stop, and try again later. You may need to work on mastering each of the following steps over time. It isn’t something that can be done overnight. Patience is a virture.
Test your dog’s willingness to have you touch her mouth by rubbing your finger along her upper gums and teeth. This will help her get used to the feel of something against her teeth. Use light pressure. After several times of doing this when you feel comfortable, you could use a piece of guaze with DOG toothpaste on it to “scrub” her teeth. Younger dogs will make this difficult for you. Again, ask your vet to help you if you get frustrated!
Eventually, put some dog toothpaste on your fingertip and let your dog lick at it. There are many different flavors that you can try. Most dogs seem to like the beef or poultry flavors and look forward to teeth brushing! I know my dog does. I think she would eat the whole toothpaste tube. If after a few days she refuses to lick more toothpaste after her initial taste, try a different flavor. You can do circular motions on your dogs teeth and gums with toothpaste on your finger to get the dog used to the toothpaste on something in her mouth.
When she is used to you opening and touching her mouth, start using the toothpaste and toothbrush together. Lift her upper lip, and gently brush the little teeth. As you approach her teeth with the brush, angle the bristles so they reach the gum line, as plaque settles at the gum line. Brush in small circles, getting top and bottom on each side. As you move the bristles along the gum line, some light bleeding may occur. Slight bleeding every so often is OK. But ongoing or heavy bleeding may mean you’re brushing too aggressively or it may be a sign of gum disease.
Brush a few teeth at a time. You don’t need to do her whole mouth in one day! Sometimes just do the top jaw, and a few days later, go to the lower jaw. As long as you are doing it, that is what counts. Eventaully, you may be able to brush them all at once.
The most important teeth to brush are the canines (the long ones in front) and the back teeth. This is where the highest concentrations of plaque are.
Just remember to stay clam and praise your dog as you clean her teeth! When you are finished brushing your dog’s teeth, reward her with her favorite treat or toy. I know that sounds counterproductive after brushing teeth, but again…it is all about a POSITIVE and rewarding experience. After we do minor dental work at the clinic, the dogs receive yummy treats!
Keep in mind…bad breath may not always mean bad teeth. Check the quality of the food your are feeding your dog. Poor quality food can mean a stinky dog all around!!!!