Cleaning your dog’s teeth can be a bit of a hassle to do but, in the long run, will be well worth it. As with humans, poor dental care can lead to problems. First and foremost with humans is cavities but this is not such a big problem with canines. The buildup of tartar on the teeth gives a brown appearance and bad breath but if left to continue, can lead to gingivitis, heart and liver disease.
To check the teeth yourself, have the dog sitting in front of you and gently lift the lip at one side and then the other. If the teeth are a little discolored and the breath is not smelling too sweet, you can usually solve the problem yourself with regular brushing. If the breath is really bad smelling, if gums are red, swollen, bleeding or have bumps, the dog should be taken to a veterinary surgeon. These could all be signs of a serious dental disease, which you can learn more about in our detailed article about periodontal disease in dogs and how it can affect their overall health.
Similarly if the teeth are broken or missing the vet is a good idea. Gums should be pink and not bright red or white. Other signs to look for are excessive drooling, rubbing at the face with paws or against the carpet and a change in eating or chewing habits.
Small dogs with more flattened faces like Shih Tzu need to have their teeth brushed every day as the makeup of the mouth in some breeds means that food can accumulate more easily and makes them more vulnerable to tooth decay. You have to approach the brushing gently with small and delicate mouths and it is a good idea to have a supply of handy treats to make the process enjoyable.
Most grown up dogs will accept tooth cleaning after a while but to start when the animal is still a puppy makes it part of his training. After exercise, when the pup is quite tired and may sit still just rub a little dog toothpaste onto the gums and teeth at each side with a gentle circular movement.
Just a few seconds will get him used to the taste and the technique. You can move on to a brush when the puppy is happy with this. However, if you find that your dog just isn’t comfortable with having his teeth brushed, we have a great list of dog dental chews that your pooch may appreciate more.
With older dogs the approach is really similar in that if you do the cleaning after exercise the dog is more likely to sit still. Never use human toothpaste on your pet as the levels of fluoride can be harmful to dogs.
Dog tooth brushes – choose wisely
Dog tooth brushes are softer than those for humans and should have the bristles at a forty five degree angle. There are some double headed ones and there are some that are mounted on a finger cover that follow on from the finger rubbing technique.
Petosan make a double headed toothbrush which angles to get maximum cover of the tooth area. These are at the forty five degree angle and can be bought as a kit with toothpaste. The paste is usually chicken flavor and the brushes come in different sizes for small to large dogs.
Some brushes are double headed in that they came with a different size brush at each end of the handle. This is intended to reach different areas of the dog’s mouth and teeth. Another option is a finger mounted brush and these are very easy to use. There is a finger mounted antibacterial silver cleaner which has lots of microfibers that massage gums as well as clean the teeth.
Arm and Hammer – well known for human tooth products- make an antibacterial finger brush with a safety loop to make sure it stays on your finger and does not disappear inside the dog, this finger brush is great for tiny or tender mouths.
Beaphar are another company who offer toothbrush and paste kits. Their brushes have an angle on the handle that leads to the brush head to make reaching inside the mouth easier and are double ended.
Most of the pet supermarkets now carry a range of toothbrushes and pastes suitable for dogs and lots of them have their own brand. There is, however, a huge selection online and Amazon deliver worldwide. If in doubt, of course, consult your vet who will also have a range of items from which to choose.
If you have started by rubbing a little toothpaste on the lips and making sure the dog is happy with that, the next step is to lift the lip gently and working on one area at a time, hold the brush at a forty five degree angle and use small, circular movements.
If you finish with a downward stroke it helps remove any plaque and as most plaque is on the outside of the tooth that is usually sufficient. If the dog is upset stop what you are doing and try a little the next day.
It is a mistake to try and cover the whole mouth at first and the dog will gradually get used to the idea. If you finish the system with a treat he should soon be quite happy with the procedure and remember to talk gently to your pet as you work. If you seem calm, the dog is more likely to be calm.
The one main tooth cleaning tool is a descale and is usually stainless steel with a scraper at each end. You must be very sure your dog is happy with having his mouth cleaned and will sit or lie very still for you. The system is simply to pull away any thicker tartar that has built up on the tooth but beware that if you are not sure about this the gum can be damaged and it is better to see the vet.
Special plaque removers
There are herbal plaque removers and other remedies that may remove plaque without brushing.
Plaque Off is a powder that is added to the dog’s food. It is made from seaweed and is said to stop plaque from sticking to the surface of the tooth as it has an added ingredient for this purpose. With most of these treatments, it takes a little time and the company say improvements can be seen in three to eight weeks. This is a natural product and another one similar is Fragaria.
Fragaria is a herbal remedy made from strawberry extract and comes in pill form. It is said to be able to loosen encrusted plaque if one tablet is given daily and to prevent more plaque one tablet per week is the dosage. Again it will be a matter of weeks before you see the result.
Another product is Plaque Away and it is made from seaweed extract, sprinkled onto the food and works by coming through the dog’s system in the saliva and removing or preventing plaque in that way Once more four weeks is said to be the time before you see any improvement.
The good thing about all if these herbal remedies is that they are none invasive. Lots of people use both teeth cleaning and the herbal aspect as well.
Dog tooth paste – chicken liver or vanilla flavor?
A wide range of pastes are available at local pet stores and online. Lintbells who are well known for their natural products to keep coats in excellent condition and for joint relief products, make a dog tooth polish which contains lots of oils like salmon, flax seed, palm and almond with silica.
Used as a regular tooth cleaning product this toothpaste is said to remove plaque and promote white and healthy teeth.
- Beaphar make a two in one toothpaste flavored with liver that contains enzymes that are said to remove plaque and chlorophyll to prevent bad breath. This can be used on cats as well as dogs.
- Logic also make a hygiene, enzyme based gel that can be used for cats and dogs and this includes an agent to help the gel adhere to the teeth for longer lasting effect.
- Virbac which are a company much used and trusted by vets produce another enzymatic tooth gel for regular use. This is poultry flavored.
- Petosan also make a good toothpaste for the reduction of plaque and to stop the buildup of tartar. It is poultry flavored and this manufacturer is also sensible to point out the dangers of using human toothpaste that can irritate a dog’s tummy quite badly.
Cleaning chews and toys
Remember to supervise the dog or puppy while it plays as no toy is indestructible and small pieces can catch in the throat. If you choose a treat with ingredients that freshen breath as well, it may serve two purposes. If chlorophyll is one of those added ingredients do not worry too much if the poop is greenish as well.
Toys that simply let your dog chew as he plays will serve as tooth cleaners to some extent. A simple rope ball with no extra attachments is a good, sturdy and long lasting toy. Bones will serve the same purpose as will natural and sterilized antlers but something made for the purpose is probably a better bet.
The Busy Buddy Bristle bone is a strong toy with rawhide rings that can be replaced. It has nubs and bumps to help clean the teeth as the dog plays.
Nylabone produce flavored and durable chew bones that dogs love. The small fibers that rise as the dog chews help clean the teeth and this company make very safe products.
The Kong Dental Stick is great fun and has ridges to clean the teeth whilst providing lots of fun. This firm also make a puppy chewing stick that can be rubbed with something tasty on the ridges to encourage puppies to chew without damaging tender young teeth and gums.
There is a huge range of chew toys that are available at your local store or online and you should take care that there are no loose parts or sharp edges that can damage your dog. Read the instructions and ingredients and buy from reputable sellers.
Chews that clean and treat at the same time
Dentastix by Pedigree are the best known of the chews that clean and these are much appreciated as treats as well as helping to keep away tartar. They are made with vegetable and animal derived products and are shaped as an x to give the teeth something to grip.
Hilife make spearmint flavored chews for rawhide and these are popular with older dogs whilst Get Naked chew sticks by N Bone are made from chicken and brown rice and do not have ingredients that are known to cause allergies.
So no soy, corn or wheat is added to these. They are made in the USA and offer a low calorie version that is also gluten free. Their sticks are tasty and contain peppermint for fresh breath.
This is a treat that the dog can enjoy and it helps remove tartar as he chews. There is a movement all over the world lately to feed your dog on products that do not contain the most common allergy making ingredients.
Lots of owners now feed grain free food and those made from natural ingredients. It is wise to check the label on treats and chews as well and avoid chews that are dyed as this can cause colitis in dogs with tender tummies.
Virbac have produced a veggie chew that is z shaped and comes in various sizes to suit the size of the dog.
It has antibacterial properties as well as being made thicker than most other products to make it last longer and therefore have more cleaning effect.
Other products which can be useful
There are oral rinses and breath fresheners around for our canine companions as well as ourselves and if your affectionate pooch likes to give you sloppy kisses some of these preparations might be a good idea.
- Vet Aquadent Solution for dogs and cats has been made to help reduce plaque and tartar and freshen breath. It is simply added to the bowl of drinking water.
- Professional Breath Care Freshener is a spray that you direct into the dog’s mouth and it has sage, eucalyptus and parsley plus an ingredient to help stop plaque buildup.
- Healthy Mouth is another added to the drinking water and this product was invented by a man who cared passionately about his animals. He said that he would never put anything into the animal that he would not take himself and this additive has no fat, sugar or calories. Their promotions say it has been clinically proven to reduce plaque by seventy per cent and has nothing synthetic, artificial and no alcohol.
- Evorapet is a powder you sprinkle onto the dog’s food and it gives pro biotic that are good bacteria which outnumber the bad bacteria that cause bad breath. This helpful item not only does that but also helps gently whiten the teeth.
- Pro biotic are well known now for helping to promote a healthy gut and to this end live yogurt can also be added to the dinner as can coconut oil which dogs absolutely love. A teaspoonful of plain yogurt or coconut oil to a dog’s dinner will help promote good bacteria and combat bad breath.
These are all great products for helping to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. However, there are steps you can take to maintain great smelling breath too. If you’d like to learn more, we have a great article on other remedies for bad doggy breath.
The choice is yours
As you can see there is a vast range of products to help you keep your dog’s mouth clean and healthy. By starting at the puppy stage and letting teeth cleaning be a normal part of the dog’s routine makes life easier for the handler and becomes a regular part of everyday life.
The brushes for all sizes of mouths are available and the finger brushes for small and tender mouths are very easy to use. The pastes come in a massive variety of flavors. It may be that you choose vanilla or peppermint so that when you pet gives you big slushy kisses it smells really sweet.
Toys, treats and chewing sticks all have their place but too many dental treat chew sticks are going to defeat the healthy life idea. The manufacturers all give guidelines for how much and how often. Not a lot to be gained by making the dog fat with too many chews.
Then there are the mouth washes, mouth sprays, food additives, tablets and drinking water products to keep your pet’s mouth in tip top shape. Most of them are at very reasonable prices and lots will be available in your local store.
If they are not the Internet offers a great choice and most company’s ship all over the world. Amazon has all of the products mentioned here for sale. The biggest problem you face is which products to choose from the massive variety out there.
One last word of warning. If there are bleeding, red or swollen gums please see your veterinary surgeon and the same applies if the animal is rubbing its face or pressing the face along a carpet or anything else that is handy to relieve an itch or sore.
If your best friend stops eating or has excessive drooling, do not try and remedy it yourself. Go to a professional. Always read the labels on products, the dosage and the ingredients and supervise you precious pet when playing.