Dog Dental Cleaning: 42 Opportunities to Prove You Really Care For Your Dog

Vet cleaning dog teeth
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

«People are prettiest when they talk about something they really love with passion in their eyes.» Have you ever wondered what the thing that happy people have in common is? Take a look at your neighbor who polishes his classic car in front of his garage every day, take a look at the lady next door who sings to her flowers while watering them on her balcony, take a look at the old lady across the street who prepares morning coffee for her husband and herself so they can enjoy the morning together, and this will maybe help you get the answer…

When people are doing something for someone they love, it seems it doesn’t require any effort, so it is not called a duty anymore, but pleasure! And speaking of love, actions always speak louder than words, so the investment of your time and your attention to someone, or something you truly love, is probably the best way to prove their importance in your life.

The same applies when we talk about our beloved four-legged companions, right? We all love our pets so therefore we do not find it difficult to spend some daily time and energy for walks, playing, feeding, training… And as addition to all these activities we do in order to allow our pet’s better life, as responsible owners we should also spend some daily time for hygiene maintenance as one of the key things in the prevention of an onset of health issues in our pets. The care of your dog’s oral health including proper dog dental cleaning is a very important part of this topic… 

Our pets are carnivores

If you really want to allow your dog’s happy life, first you must make sure you fully understand your dog and his needs. Keep on mind that your dog is a carnivore and his entire digestive system, including the oral cavity and the teeth are made for such type of diet.

The ancestors of your pet that is now carefree eating his dog treats in a dish on the floor of your kitchen, had to survive the harsh laws of nature in the wilderness thanks to their 42 fangs. Those fangs allowed them to hunt, to slaughter, to tear, and to crush the bones of their praise so they can get some food. Their fangs helped them defend and manage to survive the attacks of other beasts in the wilderness.

Expressing the teeth in the canine communication, just like pointing a weapon to someone, represents a clear warning to the enemy to stay away. It also plays a important role in the establishment of a pack hierarchy and the determining of the members of the pack on alpha and beta pack members.

Dog showing his teeth

Teeth were also their necessary tool for many important activities. Females used their teeth to cut the umbilical cords of the newborn puppies. They also carried their puppies from one place to another holding them on the skin of the neck with their teeth.

For all these reasons mentioned above, the mouth and the teeth represent a very important, and actually very “personal” area for your dog, and you must respect that fact. That’s why most of the dogs are reluctant to allow manipulation of the mouth and it is very important for the dog to get used to manipulation of the mouth and teeth since an early age. It should be provided with patience and calmness, through playing and cuddling, always with a tasty reward. This will be of great importance in many situations in the future, such as dental cleaning, veterinary checkups, training etc.

The pathology behind the dental problems

Veterinary statistics shows that dental diseases at various stages are present at 80% of dogs over 3 years of age. The pathology behind the dog dental problems in most of the cases is based on the bacterial activity in the oral cavity. The polysaccharides from the canine saliva which is attached to the teeth represent an attractive nutrient medium that provides favorable conditions for bacterial growth, resulting with occurrence of a tooth film called plaque. The presence of the food debris on the teeth or between them makes the conditions for bacterial growth even better.

If the tooth plaque is not removed from the teeth, it precipitates calcium and over time it gets mineralized and it gradually forms a tooth tartar. As the tartar gets bigger and bigger it raises the gums line and a large part of the teeth remains uncovered. This situation creates perfect conditions for occurrence of bacterial infection of the surrounding tissue of the teeth called periodontal disease- periodontitis. If this condition is left untreated it can become even more complicated and can cause serious consequences such as teeth loss.

Before it’s too late, please read our article on the early signs of periodontal disease to keep an eye out for and what you can do to prevent it.

Oral-nasal fistula is an abnormal communication between the oral and the nasal cavity of the dog. It is caused by bacterial activity during complicated and untreated cases of periodontal disease of the upper canine teeth in dogs. It usually occurs in small dog breeds such as poodles, daschunds and terriers. The periodontal disease actually expands on the root of the canine tooth and destroys the bone structure of the root, making a pathological communication between the mouth and the nose.

Than the bacterial infection can directly spread to the nasal cavity. The symptoms of this disease include blood and pus discharge, sneezing, chewing difficulties and bad breath. The tooth must be removed completely, an antibiotic therapy must be provided and the treatment requires a surgery procedures in order to repair the affected tissue.

Instead of waiting to take your dog to the vet once things go bad, read up on the other dental diseases your dog may be prone to.

Tooth plaque and tartar control

The best thing you can do as a responsible owner in order to prevent the appearance of such health issues is to maintain good home oral hygiene of your dog. If your keep your dog’s teeth clean you will avoid big onset of possible dental issues. Several home oral hygiene methods can provide regular mechanical cleaning of your dog’s teeth in order to remove the tooth plaque and the food debris.

Dental cleaning for dogs can be done in different ways but the most preferred method is to provide regular tooth brushing in a small and circular motions using a proper toothbrush which is usually smaller and softer than a human toothbrush. You can choose an angled toothbrush or a specially designed finger toothbrush which will allow you easier access to the surfaces of the teeth that should be brushed. In most of the cases tartar is build up on the tooth surface that touches the cheek, so that’s why this part of the teeth is very important while dental cleaning?

Stages of periodontal disease

It is recommended to use a toothpaste which is specially made for dogs. This toothpaste is fluoride free and it is made with meat (mostly chicken and fish) flavors which are not irritating for your dog. You should never use human toothpaste as a replacement in this purpose. Make sure you always ask your trusted veterinarian for advice and instructions about proper dental cleaning and brushing techniques. Not sure which one’s the best for your dog? We have a handy list of the best dog toothpastes in the market.

And if you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before, please read our handy how-to guide on when and how to brush your dog’s teeth.

Nylabone Advanced Oral Care 2.5 oz Tartar Control Dog Toothpaste

There are various dog supplies made from nontoxic materials which are specially designed for tooth plaque and tartar removal. Different types of chew toys and chew bones which are available in the marketplace provide dental cleaning using the dog’s natural desire for chewing. Always remove the parts of the toys that can be swallowed. If you’re not sure what kind of dental chew or toy you should get for your dog, we’ve provided an expansive and detailed list of the best dental chews you can find, and weigh in on the pros and cons of each one.

Antibacterial water additives can be used in order to prevent accumulation of bacteria because their activity in the dog’s mouth is responsible for the most of the dental problems. Chlorhexidine oral rinse is the most used oral antiseptic for plaque control that is safe for use in pets. Breath refreshing sticks can help your dog have better breath and mask the normal smell of his mouth. Keep on mind that if you have noticed some unusual changes in your dog’s breath you must notify your veterinarian because the bad breath can be symptom of numerous diseases and the real cause of this problem must be detected and cured.

Veterinary dentistry topics

Yearly, routine checkups by your veterinary doctor are highly recommended. The vet will first make a clinical examination of the dog and this will include an examination of the oral cavity and the teeth as well. While examining the dog’s teeth you must keep on mind that 2/3 of the tooth which are placed below the gum and are not visible, so the x-ray is often used to determine the condition of the teeth in some doubtful cases.

If the veterinarian notices a presence of inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) he will certainly recommend a therapy with antibiotics in order to calm the inflammation before other dental procedures can be done.

Dog lying at the dentist

Dental procedures that are usually performed in the veterinary practice include ultrasonic removal of the tartar, tooth reparation, as well as removing of any rotten teeth, if present. All of these dental procedures in dogs must be performed properly by licensed veterinarian, always under general anesthesia. Otherwise there is a big risk of possible injuries because these procedures are very uncomfortable for the animals. A good veterinary doctor will always be patient and happy to spend some time for educating the owner about proper home dental cleaning for dog.

Things you can do at home

There are some things you can do at home, that are actually very simple but they can be of great importance for your dog’s health. For example, you can periodically perform inspections of your dog’s oral cavity by yourself at home. You can check the dog’s tongue, the oral tissue, the color of the gums, the condition of the teeth, and always notify your vet if there are some unusual changes.

There are some symptoms that can indicate that your dog has serious dental problems. If you notice some changes in your dog’s breath, if the gums are red and swollen, or if you notice some chewing difficulties in your dog, it is time to visit your veterinarian. Do not postpone the visit to the vet and do not ignore the problems that you have noticed, because they will not disappear by themselves, but they will eventually become more serious. Complicated and untreated dental problems carry a risk for the other internal organs of the dog.

The importance of the proper dog nutrition

Your dog’s diet is a very important part of this topic. Make sure to feed your dog with the best possible dog food which is adequate for his age and his size because the growth, the development and the health of the dog are directly dependent on his nutrition. The same goes when talking about dog’s oral health. There are specially formulated dog treats available in the marketplace that contain anti-tartar ingredients that slows down the process of forming of the tooth plaque and tartar.

If you decide to use home prepared food for your dog’s diet always consult with your veterinarian about the food ingredients you will use in the dog’s diet. Remember that soft food usually causes much more problems with dental calculus than dry food because of its consistency. The same goes for the food from your table you give to your pet.

If your dog has history of dental problems or you have a senior dog that is left without some teeth, make sure you will provide a diet that is recommended by your vet and which will be consisted of soft and liquid food ingredients, adequate to the dog’s teeth condition.

What your dog should eat infographic

Some dogs are prone to biting stones and metal objects while playing. Make an effort to prevent it because this way the tooth enamel can be damaged and it increases the chances for bacterial penetration. Feeding your dog with frozen food, as well as with very hot food can damage your dog’s teeth, and same goes when we talk about the drinking water. Different dog breeds may have different teeth schedule — the teeth of the brachiocephalic dog breeds (dogs with short muzzle) are placed very close to each other so the dental disorders are present more often.

Healthy habits for healthy life

Veterinary medicine is faced with numerous challenges nowadays. Some health issues are clear and some have yet to be clarified. Some of them can be cured, and some are still incurable… Some of them are preventable and some of them are not… Our goal is to separate the things we can influence from the ones we unfortunately cannot, and make sure we do everything that’s in our power to enable our pets healthy and happy life.

Knowing that life is made up of daily habits we constantly repeat, you must bear in mind that healthy habits lead to healthy life, while bad habits can cause health problems and diseases. So, when talking about topics such as canine nutrition, daily activities of the dog, good maintenance of hygiene, regular immunization and protection against parasites, we actually talk about issues that do depend on you! It means you, as owners, have a good opportunity to influence your dog’s growth, development and health, and you must try to make the most of this opportunity in the best way.

Dog brushing teeth

One of the most favorite dental quotes says that the toothbrush does not remove six months of tartar 30 minutes before your appointment. It means you should do your best to make the brushing of your dog’s teeth a everyday routine. Remember that prevention is always a better and cheaper choice than curing, and in this case it only requires your good will and a little of your daily time. You can be sure that your effort will pay off and it will certainly help your dog avoid much bigger health problems in the future.

Never hesitate to ask someone more experienced for advice when you are faced with some new situation. Read and make a web research to be better informed about proper care of your dog. Always consult with your veterinarian about all the questions related to your dog’s health.

And now it’s probably time to take a little break from reading and spend some time with your furry friend!  Always try to use the time spent in playing with your dog in a smart way. You can train him during playing, you can brush him during playing and this time you could also take the doggy toothbrush with you, because there are 42 precious stones waiting to be cleaned!

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.