How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
4 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Dog Grooming
Dogs don’t get cavities the way humans do, but they can develop plaque, tartar, and gingivitis — all of which contribute to foul breath and tooth problems. Trips to the veterinarian can be costly, so it pays to do periodic brushing yourself. (Although if your dog has lots of tartar buildup, a visit to the vet is in order.)
How often you brush your dog's teeth depends on your pet and on your motivation factor — although every day is good, once or twice a week is adequate.
Never use human toothpaste on a dog. Human toothpastes generally contain fluoride, which is poisonous to dogs. As they can’t rinse and spit, they swallow everything you put on their teeth.
Squeeze some doggie toothpaste onto a special finger toothbrush made for pets and allow your dog to lick some of it off.
You can use a human toothbrush, but it isn’t as good as a finger toothbrush.
Doggie toothpaste — never use your own! — is flavored with malt, chicken, or some other yummy flavor that dogs can’t resist. It makes the experience a little more enjoyable. (Imagine your dentist offering to clean your teeth with chocolate! Yum!)
Flip up your dog’s lip and gently rub the toothbrush and toothpaste against her teeth and gums for a few seconds.
Don’t let your dog give you any lip when you brush her teeth; hold it out of the way.
Give your dog a treat, even if she allows you to work on her for just a few seconds.
She'll remember the experience far more fondly if reward is offered.
Repeat Steps 1 through 3 the next day on a different part of the mouth.
You can gradually lengthen the amount of time spent brushing.
Some people like to purchase a dental scalar, a device used to scrape away plaque from dogs’ teeth. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can injure your dog’s gums, not to mention make one unhappy pooch. That form of teeth-cleaning is better left to your vet, especially when your dog has a lot of tartar and buildup and big teeth!