How Cleaning Your Dog’s Teeth Can Lead to a Happy Healthy Life

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / November 21, 2017

brushing dog teethWe love our furry friends and want to keep them healthy. Believe it or not, brushing dog teeth is the key to maintaining a long life for our beloved pets. When your dog is a puppy, they have only 28 teeth. However, within four to six months, their puppy teeth get replaced by 42 permanent teeth.

Your dog’s teeth will last much longer than human teeth due to the very low sugar content in their diets. However, even with the low sugar diet, your pet will need frequent teeth cleaning. In fact, daily brushing ensures a healthier pet and fewer visits to the veterinarian for issues related to dental disease.

Just like humans, dogs can be hard on their teeth. Besides food, your dog chews on toys and maybe other things that are not meant to be chewed, like that beloved shoe or blanket left on your couch.  Additionally, fibers from these objects can get caught in between the teeth.

plaque on dog teeth

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have

Smaller dogs have more crowded teeth than larger dogs which means they are more susceptible to dental problems. When the dog’s teeth are close together, the buildup of plaque occurs. Alternatively, large dogs have larger mouths with more space between each tooth. Plaque will develop on your dogs’ teeth within 24 hours while tartar starts building up in as little as 3 to 5 days.

Bad Oral Hygiene & Tooth Infection Symptoms

Monitoring your dogs’ overall behavior will give you a lot of clues about the condition of your dog’s dental health. Dogs usually hide when they are in pain. They instinctually do this to reduce the appearance of vulnerability to a potential attacker.

Signs It’s Time for A Visit to The Vet

  • stinky dog teethBad Breath.
  • Shying away from you when petting the dogs head.
  • Frequent pawing toward the head and mouth.
  • Whining or making sounds when eating.
  • Swollen jaw.
  • Bloody saliva and bleeding gums.
  • Inflamed gums (gingivitis).
  • The dog changes how he chews food, maybe leaning to the far right or left when eating.
  • Grumpiness behavior.
  • Nasal discharge and drooling.

Bad Oral Hygiene Outcomebad oral hygiene in dogs

Be aware, if you neglect your dog’s teeth, the bad bacteria that forms with dental disease can travel to the dog’s kidneys, heart and lungs. Once that bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can be fatal. You must schedule an appointment immediately with your vet to diagnose the issue. You should take preventive care in preventing doggie periodontal disease by cleaning your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. Furthermore, if the dog has gingivitis and it is not taken care of, periodontal disease in dogs can lead to bone loss. Nevertheless, when severe periodontal disease has occurred, your veterinarian will most likely have to perform anesthetic teeth cleaning so they can reach behind the gums.


Easy Ways to Clean your Dog Teeth with Food and Treats

Certain dog toys and chews are beneficial to your dog’s dental health by helping to remove plaque buildup on the teeth.  Dog chews will help keep your dog’s gums strong.  

A good start to the prevention of tooth and gum disease starts with the type of food you feed to your dog. Raw, meaty bones are mildly abrasive and an effective way to help remove dental plaque. Kibble can also help remove plague as well; however, it does nothing to help remove plaque at the gum line, the most important area to keep clean to prevent periodontal disease.

If you do purchase kibble, be sure to choose a high quality option with no added sugars. Added sugar will just add to the problem, resulting in increased plaque and tartar buildup. 

Dog treats and chews should be approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Also, investing some time with your pet with consistent brushing at home in between doctor visits will save money for on future veterinarian bills, and heartache for your pet.

Tips For Brushing Dog Teethbrushing dog teeth

While it may seem time-consuming, brushing your dog’s teeth at home is a must! In fact, brushing your dog’s teeth is the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease as it prevents plaque buildup. Additionally, it is the number one form of prevention in dog periodontal disease.

When brushing your dog’s teeth, it is better to use a doggie toothbrush and not a conventional human toothbrush. Canine toothbrushes have more of an angle to maneuver more easily into the mouth. Also, never put human toothpaste in your dog’s mouth because fluoride can be poisonous for your furry friend.

There are a lot of good toothpaste choices for dogs. Your veterinarian or local pet store clerk can also recommend the best toothpaste for dogs. You may go through some trial and error with your dog on what taste they prefer but luckily there is a lot of variety on the market. Commercial dog toothpaste flavors range from chicken to beef and fish so you will be able to find something your dog will truly enjoy.

Homemade Dog Toothpaste  

Want to know how to make homemade toothpaste for dogs? It’s pretty straightforward:

Mix up organic coconut oil, parsley, kelp, mint and turmeric, place in a bowl, and warm in the microwave for 10 seconds. Dip a small amount of the dog’s toothbrush and gently brush using a smooth motion from the gum line down to the teeth on the upper teeth. For the lower teeth start at the gum line and brush upward. You can add a pinch of ground up cloves which is an anti-parasitic or a little beef or chicken dog bouillon cube which will make the home-made dog toothpaste taste better. You can place the leftover mixture in the fridge to reuse.

Natural Dog Toothpaste Ingredients

  • Parsley is a natural antibacterial
  • Kelp helps to get rid of plaque
  • Turmeric is a natural tooth whitener.
  • Mint can freshen breath.

Take your time introducing the toothpaste to your dog. Start by placing the paste on your fingers and letting your dog smell it before you start brushing.

 Best Technique For Brushing Dogs Teeth

brushing dogs teeth

  • Start with the rubbing your dog’s teeth gently a few times a day with your fingers so your pet gets used to the feeling of having their teeth touched. You can even place some of their favorite food on your finger to make it enjoyable for your pet.
  • Choose a dog toothbrush made for dog teeth cleaning that allows you to get to hard to reach areas like the molars.
  • Trying a child’s soft toothbrush is an option your dog may feel comfortable with.
  • Try a gauze wrapped around your finger until the dog gets used to the cleaning process you are performing with some dog toothpaste before cleaning with the toothbrush.
  • Canine dental pads are available and are super convenient for quick cleanings. Pet dental pads make great breath fresheners.

Options For Dog Teeth Cleaning

Once you believe your dog has dental disease, you must go the veterinarian for an evaluation and treatment. The different options may include a veterinary dental cleaning with or without anesthesia.

Anesthesia Free vs. Anesthesia Pet Dental Cleaning

Be aware that the anesthesia-free option will not reach far below the gum line. Most likely, your dog will not like this procedure and it will require an assistant or assistants to hold the dog down. The procedure only involves a scaling of the teeth for plaque removal. Unfortunately, for some dogs, this can be painful and uncomfortable. This treatment does not address deeper concerns of gingivitis and more severe periodontal disease that shows below the gum line.  Cleaning procedures should be done on a regular basis as a routine preventative measure for good pet dental health at least once or twice per year at the vet. Fortunately, home care brushing can be a daily routine for keeping your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.

Only when the dog is placed under anesthesia can the teeth and gums be deeply cleaned if your pet has been diagnosed with periodontal disease.  Additionally, there are benefits of this procedure.

The benefits include:

  •  Anesthesia temporarily disables your dog for comfortability at the time of the procedure and allows the doctor to perform a very deep cleaning.
  • No pain for the dog at the time of the procedure.
  • The dog will get a chest x-ray, full blood tests, urinalysis, and a BNP to detect any heart disease condition.
  • The scaling can go below the gum line effectively cleaning the area sufficiently and potentially reducing further procedures with proper prevention practices for preventing gum disease.

Visits to the veterinarian to have your dog’s teeth cleaned professionally are vital to your dog’s health 1 – 2 times per year. However, by brushing your dog’s teeth at home on a daily basis, will help prevent dog periodontal disease. Additionally, you will have a healthier, happier pet with a longer lifespan.

 Want more advice on how to combat bad breath in dogs? Check out this guide!

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for