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Most parents of human children wouldn’t hesitate to brush their kids’ teeth every day, but what about taking care of their dog’s teeth?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that pet parents brush their furry friends’ teeth once a day, or several times a week. The lack of a brushing routine is the most common cause of dogs’ oral health problems, including gum disease and the infamous “dog breath.”
To keep their pets healthy, pet parents need to learn how to clean a dog’s teeth. That means acclimating the dog to the process so it becomes routine.
How to brush your dog’s teeth starts with choosing a toothbrushing time and place where your dog will be comfortable and relaxed. Find somewhere in the house or apartment where other people and pets won’t disturb.
Have the toothbrushing supplies ready to go. Use a regular human toothbrush or one designed specifically for pets, but never use human toothpaste. The latter contains ingredients that can harm dogs if swallowed. There are plenty of dog toothpastes out there that are safe, effective, and taste great to dogs.
Call the dog over and give them some pets. Stroke their head and touch their cheeks, and when the dog seems relaxed and comfortable, lift their upper lip and look at their gums.
Look around the mouth, checking for redness or plaque and tartar buildup:
Plaque builds up on dog teeth after meals. It’s gummy in texture and clear or yellowish in color, just like human plaque.
Tartar is hardened plaque. It’s the same color but rough and porous.
Be gentle and go slow when touching these areas as they may be sore.
This part is about getting the dog used to the feel of the toothbrush in their mouth. Take the brush and touch the top and bottom of the front, side, and back teeth. Offer plenty of praise and maybe a little bit of a dental treat for tolerating the process.
Now it’s time to offer a taste of the toothpaste. Dog toothpaste is formulated to appeal to dogs. It’s made without harmful chemicals and ingredients that may trigger allergic reactions.
Introduce the toothpaste by putting some on one finger and letting the dog lick it off. If they don’t love the first flavor, try a few more until you find a hit.
Once the dog has seen and felt the toothbrushing supplies, add the toothpaste to the brush and start brushing. It doesn’t matter whether the top or bottom gets attention first, as long as every tooth gets attention in the end.
Brush the dog’s front teeth on both sides, top and bottom, slowly working toward the back teeth.
For most dogs, having their teeth brushed is uncomfortable at first. As you learn how to clean a dog’s teeth, focus on making it a positive experience.
Praise the dog frequently. Use treats to reward them for being patient. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a means to an end. Once the dog is comfortable with having their teeth cleaned, get rid of the treats and keep the routine.