Guide to Dental Care for Dogs

poodle dog with tootbrush in mouth

Just like your own teeth and gums, your dog’s mouth needs regular care too. But, dental care for dogs is a little bit different than dental care for humans. Consider this your quick guide to dental care for dogs.

Why Do You Need to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?

Tartar buildup in your dog’s mouth can lead to dental issues like tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease. When dogs develop dental disease, it will most likely manifest as periodontal disease and/or fractured, chipped, or broken teeth. Tooth decay, like cavities, is rare in dogs. On top of that, dental disease in your dog’s mouth can sometimes cause the disease to spread to other areas of your dog’s body. Infection in their oral cavity gives harmful bacteria a direct line into your dog.

Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions veterinarians see and it is one of the most preventable. Active dental disease occurs in over 80% of dogs over three years old! Lack of proper dental care is the cause of this high number and it’s also responsible for your dog’s breath smelling horrible. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is an important part of keeping them healthy.

When Should You Start Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth?

It’s important to start caring for your dog’s teeth and gums early on. Not only does this get your dog used to having their teeth cleaned as a puppy, but it also makes continued care much easier throughout their lives. Most importantly, proper dental care prevents tartar and plaque from building up in the first place.

If the tartar and plaque are already there, regular dental care can slow down its progression towards disease, but only professional cleaning will get rid of it. This procedure requires your dog to go under anesthesia for their teeth to be professionally scaled and polished. If left untreated, dental disease often results in painful, infected teeth that then need to be removed to prevent the infection from spreading throughout your dog.

Dental Products for Dogs

Before you jump into doggie dental care, make sure you get the right supplies. This is important for your dog’s health and safety and can help make the process easier for you both. Here are some dental products for dogs you can use to help prevent dental disease in your dog:

Toothbrush for Dogs

The best, most effective way to prevent the tartar and plaque buildup that causes dental disease is brushing your dog’s teeth regularly. Brushing their teeth every day is ideal for preventing dental disease. But, you shouldn’t just grab a spare toothbrush and start using it.

Your dog’s teeth and mouth are different than your own and they need a toothbrush designed for dogs. These toothbrushes are soft to prevent damage and are angled to help brush the back teeth. There are also finger brushes and single-use dental wipes available to help you keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.

Toothpaste for Dogs

It’s also important to get toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs. Toothpaste for humans often contains detergents and abrasives that are not meant to be inhaled, swallowed, or ingested by dogs. The best option is to invest in a canine toothpaste that is meant to be swallowed. Dog toothpaste also often comes in a variety of flavors that appeal to dogs like seafood and poultry, which can help you make the toothbrushing process a more positive one for your dog.

Enzyme Toothpastes, Rinses, and Gels for Dogs

For the dog that will absolutely not accept a toothbrush or to help reduce buildup between brushings, there are toothpastes, oral rinses, and oral gels that contain enzymes and are safe for dogs to swallow and ingest. These often contain chlorhexidine, which is an anti-plaque antiseptic that sticks to your dog’s gums and the surfaces of their teeth. It cleans teeth above the gum line, helps keep the oral tissue around teeth healthy, and is gradually released into the oral cavity to clean below the gum line.

It has a bitter taste by itself, so there are often taste enhancers added to help your dog accept it easier. The enzyme toothpaste and gel is smeared onto the teeth while the rinse is squirted into each side of your dog’s mouth. Your dog’s tongue and lips will spread it around their mouth and it helps keep your dog’s mouth clean and healthy.

Dental Hygiene Chews

In addition to regular tooth brushing, dental hygiene chews and treats can help your dog’s mouth stay healthy. Plus, it will often freshen their breath as a bonus. These chews and treats are formulated to help reduce tartar and plaque buildup. There are also some dog foods available that are manufactured to be part of a “dental diet” to enhance your dog’s dental health and help protect their mouth.

Before adding any of these chews, treats, or food to your dog’s diet, be sure to stop by for a vet check-up first and talk to your vet about which products are the best bet for your dog. There are a lot of products available on the market, but not all of them are a good option for your pup. Your vet should be able to help you narrow down the list to a few good, safe options.

Your dog relies on you for care. Make dental care a part of your regular grooming routine to help your dog stay happy and healthy from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail and everything in between.