You’ve got the brush-twice-a-day thing down pat for yourself and go to the dentist regularly, but you might be asking, how often should I brush my dog’s teeth? You might also be wondering if a professional should do your dog’s teeth cleaning and if so, what that involves.
Your dog’s dental health is more important than you might think about regularly. You love seeing that toothy smile when you walk in the door and give your dog chew toys and treats, but when’s the last time you brushed your dog’s teeth?
We’re using National Pet Dental Health Month as a friendly reminder that we all could probably be doing a better job of looking after our dog’s teeth. Here, learn why your dog’s teeth are a crucial component in their overall health, how to perform a dog teeth cleaning, and when it’s time to see a professional.
Your Dog’s Teeth and Their Health
It can be tough to tell if your dog’s teeth cleaning routine could use improvement, but some signs are bad breath, a reduced appetite, bleeding around the mouth, and swollen gums, according to AVMA.
Periodontal disease is very common in dogs and it’s often due to plaque that turns into tartar. It’s said that about 80 percent of dogs have some form of gum disease by age 3, so statistically speaking, your dog might have it. That buildup of tartar and plaque below the gum line can lead to infection and cause serious health problems in your dog, including jaw health problems, heart disease, kidney, and liver issues. Every time you take your dog to the vet for a check-up, they should be doing a dental evaluation. Use that time to ask questions about your dog’s dental health and the veterinarian’s recommendations.
It’s recommended that pet parents brush their dog’s teeth daily, but if that’s not possible, aim for a few days a week. Set a reminder in your phone to brush your dog’s teeth every other day. Even if you ignore it a few times, you’ll have a few sessions done by the end of the week.
Using a dental chew can help augment the daily brushing but shouldn’t replace it. Giving your dog a daily dental chew helps remove some of the plaque on the teeth and gums, according to the American Kennel Club. Chances are that your dog will love this treat so it shouldn’t be that difficult to check this off their daily care list.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth
If you and your dog are new to the process, start slowly and practice patience.
- First, make sure you have dog toothpaste and either a toothbrush for dogs or a fingertip toothbrush. Let your dog taste the toothpaste so she knows it’s delicious and not something to fear.
- Angle the bristles of the brush up along the gum line. Work from the back of the mouth to the front, making small circles along your dog’s gum lines on the upper teeth.
- If your dog lets you keep going—you’re holding her close and hugging her, too, right?—work from the back to the front along the bottom jaw.
- Your dog might not let you brush many teeth the first time or the first few times. That’s okay, you’re making progress and taking steps towards prevention.
- Praise your dog afterward and spend some quality time together so she associates brushing with positive actions.
When to Take Your Dog to a Veterinary Dentist
It’s generally recommended to take your dog to the veterinarian for a dog teeth cleaning about once a year after they’re six months old. If you’ve done a great job of brushing your dog’s teeth and the vet told you that his teeth are in good shape, you might be able to skip the visit.
When you take your four-legged family member for a professional teeth cleaning, know that they’ll be put under general anesthesia and get X-rays. That’s so that the veterinary dentist can do a good job of removing tartar and plaque and polishing their teeth.
So use National Pet Dental Health Month as a reason to start a regular brushing habit and take care of your pet’s dog teeth. You’ll be doing your part to keep your dog as safe and healthy as possible with this preventative care habit.