Dentists recommend that we brush our teeth twice a day to maintain our oral health. But what about our dogs? They have teeth, but they're very different from us. In this post, we're revealing everything you should know about puppy dental care so you can keep their pearly whites healthy and de-stink their breath.
Dental care is the most often overlooked part of a dog's grooming – we take our pups to the groomer, brush them weekly, and give them regular baths, but oral health can get lost in the shuffle.
This is more important than you might think! A dog's teeth go through a lot each day, as they sniff out and chew just about everything they can sink their teeth into with glee.
Dogs' mouths are full of healthy bacteria that are much superior to ours, which is how they manage to eat dirt without getting sick.
However, a dog's mouth is not a fully self-maintaining machine, and toothbrushing is essential in taking care of a dog. All pups need extra help to keep their mouth in good health and avoid tooth decay, especially as they begin to age.
We're teaching you the easiest method for brushing dogs' teeth that's relatively painless for both of you, so that you can keep your pup's dental care in top shape.
Why Should I Brush My Dog's Teeth?
How many teeth do dogs have? Fun fact: Our doggos have 28 teeth as a pup and 42 permanent teeth as adults!
A proactive approach to your doggo's dental care may be a routine they don't want to adjust to, but stay strong – there are plenty of reasons why dog tooth brushing is crucial for their health:
- Bad breath prevention. Keeping dog teeth brushed regularly prevents foul mouth odor caused by decay and leftover food particles hanging out in a pup's gums.
- Removes tartar buildup. Using a dog toothbrush removes tartar and plaque, which contribute to tooth decay and can even travel to other areas in the body and cause blockages in a dog's organs.
- Prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay. Brushing stimulates gums and cleans teeth, both of which prevent periodontal disease and keep your dog's teeth from rotting.
What Do I Need To Brush My Dog's Teeth?
You only need a couple of supplies for brushing your dog's teeth. Just don't grab human toothpaste and a brush – they have tools specifically made for dogs' mouths.
There are plenty of toothbrush options for your pup. Get a single or double head, or one that fits on your fingertip. Beware when using a finger brush, as they may accidentally chomp down on your finger.
Keep the bristles soft to prevent gum damage.
Human toothpaste is not suitable for dogs. It contains chemicals, like fluoride, that dogs shouldn't ingest. We can't exactly tell our pups not to swallow the paste, so we need to use a toothpaste that's safe for consumption.
Doggie toothpaste comes in various flavors, from traditional mint to far-out flavors like meat and poultry. A good-tasting toothpaste can provide some extra motivation for a pup that's hesitant to get its teeth brushed.
You may be wondering how often to brush dogs' teeth, but we can assure you, it's not twice a day.
To maintain optimal puppy oral health, brush your dog's teeth once every 1-2 days. It takes 48-72 hours for plaque to solidify and require scraping, so keeping under this time frame allows you to easily brush away any plaque, food particles, and bacteria.
How to Brush a Dog's Teeth
1) Pick a quiet time and place to start.
Tooth brushing can be a stressful experience, especially for a dog that's never had its teeth brushed before.
Dogs generally don't love us putting our hands in their mouths, and it can be challenging to keep their teeth from clenching.
That's why it's crucial to try brushing at a time of the day when your dog is already calm and relaxed. If you have a busy household, find a quiet room, and shut the door to keep your pup as at ease as possible.
2) Get your dog used to getting their mouth touched.
Like we said, most dogs do not like their mouths touched, even by you, their loving alpha and owner.
Sit your dog down into a comfortable position and sit with them. Start lifting and gently touching the gums and the outside of their teeth.
Add some extra motivation by putting some peanut butter or other tasty treat on your finger first, so the pup associates mouth-touching with a delicious reward.
3) Introduce the toothbrush.
Take your doggie toothbrush without paste, and use the brush to touch the gums and all sides of the teeth gently. Start on the outside of the teeth and work your way in slowly to not overwhelm the dog.
4) Introduce the toothpaste.
Squeeze a bit of dog toothpaste onto your fingertip and introduce it to your dog.
Let your pup sniff the paste first. Hopefully, they enjoy the smell and lick it off your finger. If they don't, try placing your finger into their mouth and see how it goes.
5) Brush the top teeth.
All right, it's now time to introduce the brushing process to your dog!
First, squeeze some doggie paste onto their toothbrush. Just a little bit will be more than enough to get started.
Then, gently lift your pup's gums and start to brush. Move the brush up and down along each tooth in the top row. Start at the front teeth, then move to the molars. It's good to start on the top row, as these teeth are a little easier to access than their smaller bottom teeth.
Start at the outside of the teeth and slowly move your way inward, easing your pup's jaw open.
6) Brush the bottom teeth.
Repeat the same brushing process on your dog's bottom set of teeth. Hold their lower gum down to better expose their teeth, but be gentle, as it can be a little uncomfortable.
If you're struggling to access the insides of the teeth, wait until your pup is calmer. If you don't hit every angle of the tooth the first time around, there will be plenty of time to get them later.
7) Reward good behavior.
Once you finish brushing, give your dog lots of praise and encouragement and as many treats as you see fit.
Toothbrushing is unnatural for a dog, and they can't understand why we're "torturing" them with the process. By rewarding them, we let them know that enduring the brushing is good behavior that will lead to more rewards.
Keep in mind, these are the steps for brushing a dog's teeth for the first time. Dogs are adaptive creatures, and with regular exposure to toothbrushing, they'll get used to it and begin to go with the flow.
The process might take quite a while at first, but eventually, your pup will no longer resist toothbrushing time and accept it as part of the routine.
Dental Bones and Chews
There are plenty of products on the market that claim to improve a pup's oral health when chewed regularly, like dental bones and bully sticks.
While these dental products can keep plaque and tartar at a minimum, they can't replace brushing altogether.
Also, if you get your pup a dental bone, make sure it's not too hard for their teeth to avoid causing damage.
Final Note: Brushing a Dog's Teeth
We know the last thing you likely want to do is brush your dog's teeth. It's the last thing your dog wants to do either!
But it is necessary, and we promise it will get easier. The payoff will be worth it five or ten years down the line when your dog isn't struggling with tooth pain, decay, and gum disease as a senior pup.
Good luck to you both on your puppy tooth brushing ventures!