Regular canine teeth cleaning is essential in preventing dental problems such as gingivitis, so brushing your four-legged friend’s teeth should be incorporated into your canine dental care program.
Some dog parents think that brushing their dogs’ teeth is difficult because their dogs do not like the idea of brushing.
With patience and persistent training, however, you will find that brushing dog teeth is not such an ordeal as you imagine.
This page shows you how to get your dog accustomed to getting their teeth brushed or cleaned. It also introduces several alternatives that can be used if your dog really hates tooth brushing.
Toothpaste for Brushing Dog Teeth
Never use toothpaste made for humans to brush your dog’s teeth.
Human toothpaste foams because it contains sodium lauryl sulphate. Most dogs find the foaming action unpleasant.
Moreover, human toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed. However, dogs do not know how to spit and rinse. Swallowing the fluoride in human toothpaste is not good for dogs.
For routine cleaning, you can make your own doggie toothpaste by mixing 1 tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of water.
Alternatively, you can combine hydrogen peroxide (3% food grade), aloe vera juice (1:1) with a little bit of baking soda.
There are also various kinds of dog toothpastes with different flavors. However, many of such toothpastes are sweetened with sugar which of course is not good for our dogs’ teeth. If you want to get a dog toothpaste, try to get one that is sugar-free.
Brushing Dog Teeth – Training Your Dog
It is important to introduce the idea of teeth cleaning or brushing to your dog slowly and without stress. Try taking these steps:
- Give your dog a taste of his toothpaste on the first day.
- Put some toothpaste on his toothbrush and let him just lick it off on the next few days, until he looks forward to the “treat” (toothpaste).
- Once your dog is eagerly anticipating the taste of his toothpaste, you can try brushing his teeth.
To make brushing his teeth stress-free, try taking these steps:
- Make your dog sit down next to you.
- Gently massage his cheeks using light strokes for several seconds.
- Gently lift his upper lip and brush one side of his upper teeth and gums. If he does not like the brushing, stop and try again the next day.
- If he does not resist the brushing, gently pull down the lower lip and brush one side of his lower teeth and gums.
- Repeat the same on the other side the next day.
- After a few days, you should be able to brush the whole mouth all in one sitting!
Points to Remember
When brushing your dog’s teeth, there are several things to remember:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a 45-degree angle to the head. Toothbrushes designed specifically for dogs are available at pet supply stores.
- Brush your dog’s teeth with a gentle, circular motion, and pay special attention to where the gum and teeth meet.
- It is not necessary to brush the inside of the teeth because your dog’s tongue is good at self-cleaning and keeps the inside surface of the teeth relatively free of plaque and tartar.
- When you first start brushing your dog’s teeth, bleeding may occur. This is a sign of gum disease. However, daily brushing should tighten the gums and stop the bleeding in one or two weeks.
- Some dogs just can’t get used to the idea of brushing and may get aggressive if you force the issue. If your dog is one of them, back off and try other alternatives. Don’t make brushing dog teeth a stressful ordeal for both your dog and yourself. Never punish your dog for not allowing you to brush his teeth. This will only make him associate brushing with negative punishment.
Other Alternatives to Brushing Dog Teeth
If your dog strongly resists the idea of tooth brushing, try these alternatives:
- Wrap a piece of gauze around your finger and quickly wipe the outside of his teeth after a meal. You may also put some CHX Gel (available in pet supply stores) on the gauze to help kill germs in the mouth. CHX (Chlorhexidine) is antibacterial, antifugal, and to some extent, antiviral.
- Instead of using a toothbrush, you may want to start off by using a “finger brush” that is specially made for cleaning the outside of dogs’ teeth.
- Choose a dental product that is formulated to reduce plaque build-up by combating the bacteria found in plaque, such as dental gel or dental spray.
Dental spray usually works by removing plaque gently and easily, even with severe cases of plaque build-up. The spray stimulates enzymes in the dog’s saliva, and changes the chemistry in the mouth. This causes the tartar to soften gradually. In a few weeks, the plaque will begin to wear away and the tartar will fall off.
Dental gel mixes with your dog’s saliva when applied on his teeth, and will coat the teeth and the oral cavity completely. The coating kills harmful bacteria and, at the same time, loosens plaque and tartar on the teeth.