How to Manage Your Dog's Dental Health

How to Manage Your Dog's Dental Health

Dental hygiene is essential for maintaining dogs' health and wellness. It is surprising how often dental hygiene is overlooked by dog owners. And by the time you notice your four-legged friend is having problems, the damage has already been done. You’re going to need to take a much more hands-on approach with your canine’s teeth if you want to ensure they stay healthy. Issues with their dental health not only affect their teeth and gums but also their digestion and immune system as well. Maintaining a consistent dental regimen can have far-reaching benefits that extend beyond what happens in their mouth. In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about your dog's dental health as well as when you should contact your vet.

Why You Need to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

Brushing your dog's teeth isn't always as simple as it may seem. But it’s imperative that you keep their mouth clean and healthy, so they don’t endure any dental problems down the road. Veterinarians state that more than 80% of dogs they see over the age of three have some form of active dental disease. We'll go through some of the major difficulties that might develop when you put your dog's dental care on the back burner.

Bad Breath

Not as serious as some of the other issues that can arise, bad canine breath can still be problematic nonetheless. Sometimes this can simply be from something disgusting they’ve eaten. Other times it is caused by bacteria that reside in your dog's infected gums and tooth tissue. This odor is usually a sign of some underlying progressive dental disease that you’ll want to have looked at by your local vet.

Tartar and plaque buildup on canine teeth.

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

Tartar and plaque buildup might start in the mouth, but if not properly taken care of and removed, it can easily transfer to other parts of the body. This is where it can cause blockages and build-up leading to more serious problems. Plaque is created when their saliva is combined with food particles and bacteria inside their mouth. When this goes untreated, it becomes tartar which will then lead to gum disease, decay, amongst other possible ongoing dental issues.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is what occurs when there’s an infection along with inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tooth. It’s a direct result of the plaque and tartar buildup that we just spoke about while also being one of the most common diseases that can affect dogs. Tartar, (AKA calculus) is what can later lead to inflammation and irritation of the gums along with it being one of the early stages of gum disease. This can also lead to loss of teeth, chronic pain, and bone loss amongst other possibly serious health issues. As long as you notice the issue before it turns into something more serious, you or your veterinarian should be able to treat the problem without much issue.

Other Internal Problems

Periodontal disease isn’t the only internal issue you need to be aware of when dealing with your dog’s dental hygiene. Some other common issues to consider are heart and/or kidney damage, as well as damage to the body’s filter for blood, the liver. Consequently, the toxins from periodontal disease and other oral diseases are directly absorbed into your pooch’s bloodstream. The large amount of bacteria that are constantly entering your doggo’s blood is what can lead to serious internal damage. Essentially, the bacteria in your dog’s mouth has a direct highway to easily reach the rest of their internal organs.

Brushing your Dog’s Teeth

Dog sniffing a toothbrush before a teeth cleaning session.

Creating an at-home dental care regimen is crucial regarding your dog’s dental health. Just as you wouldn’t go days without brushing your teeth, you don’t want to go long periods without giving your canine’s teeth a nice clean. So many dog owners will make sure that their pup’s coat is nice and shiny, their nails are cut nice and short but overlook the teeth and gums.

Making Sure They’re Comfortable

The main objective is to get your pooch completely comfortable with someone putting their fingers in their mouth. Depending on the type of dog you own, this could either be a rather effortless task or it could be extremely laborious. You want to increase your dog's comfort level to where they are relaxed. Their initial reaction will usually be, “There appears to be something in my mouth. It must be food, so I should bite it.” To curb this reaction, you’ll start by gently raising their lips and massaging their gums. If they don’t pull away, you should be good to move on to the next step, and so on. However, if they do pull away, you'll want to take a short break before making another attempt. Just make sure you’re rewarding them for each time they properly follow instructions.

What Tools to Use?

Small dog looking at hand's holding dental tools.

You always want to be sure that you’re using the right tools for the job, ones specifically made with dogs in mind. And the last thing any pet parent wants is for their four-legged furry friend to be in any type of pain. That’s why it’s essential that you take your time and ease them into the process.


Since dogs don’t know to spit after you’re done brushing their teeth, specially formulated toothpaste must be used. If you use the wrong toothpaste, like toothpaste for humans, the ingredients can be potentially harmful, or even deadly. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in human toothpaste can cause blood sugar drops and even potential liver damage in your pup. Dog toothpaste is even available in a variety of flavors that your pooch will undoubtedly enjoy. From beef and chicken to even peanut butter flavored toothpaste, you should have no issues finding a flavor to your dog's liking. When you use flavored toothpaste that is to their liking, it makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.


Dog getting their teeth cleaned with a finger brush.

Not all canine toothbrushes are created equally. Some bigger toothbrushes are specifically designed for larger dogs, whereas smaller toothbrushes are designed for smaller-sized dogs. Some will feature a textured handle for easy grip, or even a double-headed design to allow you to brush both sides of their teeth simultaneously. Another popular option with pet parents is the finger brush due to its ease of use and ability to get to those hard-to-reach areas. Whatever you do, don’t use a human toothbrush on your doggo! The bristles are much too stiff and can injure your pup’s gums. Human toothbrushes also feature a larger head that can’t effectively clean the molars in the back of their mouth. No matter what type of toothbrush you use on your pooch, make sure you go slow and are as gentle as possible. If you don’t take it slow, you might accidentally poke your dog’s gums causing irritation and just making the whole process that much more difficult.

Positive Association

If you think you’re simply going to stuff a toothbrush in your dog’s mouth without them batting an eye, you’re in for a rude awakening. Anytime you’re looking to brush your dog’s teeth or train them in any way, it can take some time. When you use positive association, it can help cut down on that time.

Dog being rewarded with treats for positive associate with teeth cleaning.

Start by gently rubbing their cheeks as you give them one of their favorite treats. Also, have your dental tools on hand to slowly expose them to your dog. If they seem inquisitive, allow them to approach the tools without any participation on your part. After they seem comfortable, it’s time to introduce them to the dog toothpaste. Begin by giving them an ample amount of time to lick and smell the toothpaste. Even letting them lick some from your finger before allowing them to lick some off of the toothbrush. Just make sure you give them a treat and some positive reinforcement after each correctly completed task.

Once they’ve gotten used to their toothpaste, it’s time to acquaint them with the toothbrush. You’ll want to pop a treat in their mouth and give praise as you bring the toothbrush near their face. They will soon begin to connect the toothbrush and toothpaste with a positive thing: treats and positive reinforcement. They should become adjusted to the whole experience after a few weeks, making your daily routine much easier on them, as well as yourself. If that doesn’t seem to work, you’ll want to check out our RELAX supplements specifically formulated for nervous dogs. When used on a regular basis with dogs who have significant levels of anxiety, they are shown to be helpful, resulting in a much healthier and happy doggy.

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