How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth





Introduction: How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

While dogs rarely get cavities, plaque and tartar on your dog's teeth can lead to serious problems. Gum disease can be painful and cause tooth loss, bone loss, bad breath and infection. The bacteria that grow in an infected gum can also spread to other parts of a dog's body and cause endocarditis (heart valve infection), kidney and liver damage.

Before starting an at-home oral care regime for your dog, I suggest you have a vet look at her teeth and determine what level of build-up is present. If there is tartar build-up, they might remove it with a scaler, usually while your pet is anesthetized. It is important that you never try this at home as the vet removes plaque from both above and below the gumline while at home you can only reach what they eye can see.

After you are given the ok by your vet, you are ready to start getting your dog accustomed to brushing.

It's worth noting that some dogs are predisposed to extreme tartar production due to hereditary traits passed on through generations. If your dog seems to have recurring tartar issues, discuss with your vet how best to proceed.

Step 1: Supplies You'll Need

Dog toothpaste, see note below*
Gauze pads (optional)
Soft finger toothbrush or soft small-head toothbrush
Treats, commercial dog treats, string cheese, hot dogs or anything else your dog likes and that you can dole out in small portions

  • It is very important to only use a toothpaste made especially for pets. There are many different flavors and varieties available at pet supply stores. However, I highly recommend the CET brand pet toothpaste as it works enzymatically rather than with an abrasive cleanser like some other brands.

Step 2: Acclimate Your Dog to a Finger in His Mouth

Using just your finger, touch/rub the outside of your dog's lips, praising him and stopping to give him a treat. Proceed to rubbing your dog's gums and teeth with only your finger.

If you'd like, you can wrap a gauze pad around your finger to lightly clean the teeth and gums during this step or use a pet toothwipe. Be sure to praise and treat your dog after each step.

Do this once a day for a week or so or until your dog is comfortable with your fingers in his mouth, then proceed on.

Step 3: Acclimate Your Dog to Toothbrush in His Mouth

Using a dry brush, lightly touch your dogs lips and teeth. Treat and praise your dog while he is calm. If this step goes well, move on to the next step: adding toothpaste. If at any time your dog gets agitated, take a step back and get him used to the previous step.

Step 4: Add Toothpaste and Increase Duration

Using a small amount of toothpaste on your brush, lightly brush your dog's teeth, paying special attention to the back molars where tartar builds up readily. The inside of the teeth does not accumulate as much tartar so it is most important to brush the outside surfaces.

Work up to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of the mouth.

Step 5: Other Options

If your dog simply hates this activity even after the acclimation period (give it at least a month before giving up), there are other options though they are not as good as daily brushing at keeping plaque at bay.

Food and treats designed to keep plaque from accumulating.
You may have heard as long as your dog eats crunchy food then they're fine. This is not true as most foods are not crunchy enough or in the mouth long enough to have any effect. There are a few foods and treats, however, that carry the Veterinary Oral Health's Council seal of acceptance which have been shown to reduce the accumulation of tartar and plaque. Check for this seal before believing your dogs teeth are being protected.

Dental toys
Chew toys that are billed as dental care devices may or may not work. But if you truly can't brush your dog's teeth, anything is better than nothing.

Water additives
There are also solutions that you add to your pet's drinking water. These reduce the bacterial growth within the mouth which reduces tartar buildup. I know some people who have had great results using this kind of product. One brand is Aquadent.



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    26 Discussions


    2 years ago


    We have three large dogs, and we brush their teeth every night. They really look forward to it.

    Thanks for this! I've tried in the past and couldn't get her to let me brush em'. I'll try using this technique starting tomorrow and see how it goes. Also, your corgi looks almost identical to mine :D!

    Great Instructable!! I'm totally going to give this a try, (Ein, my dog) HATES having his teeth brushed. I spent a good fortune at the pet health food store down my street on a really good enzymatic toothpaste and brush...I'm going to start working with him on getting used to a toothbrush in his mouth. We have the same kind of dog btw, except mine is a Cardigan :)

    Great article. I wish more people took dental care seriously for their pet. I would like to correct you though. Dogs do get cavities. Just remember: dental disease leads to many other diseases.

    My poor puppy came from the humane society so she's no exactly appreciative of teeth brushing. She does like the belly rubs after though!

    Thank you for the advice. I used to brush my dogs teth with nothing but a little praise. I skipped a couple of steps but i added treats and a lot of praise. My dog thinks its a fun game now :). thanks!

    my mom tried using a dental like instrument like the ones at the dentists' office and it work pretty well to scrape off all the junk off....then she uses the toothbrush type thing you use....pretty cool 4/5


    Nice one on how to brush their teeth. I have often noticed that even we tend to neglect how to correctly brush our teeth

    Have a look at the following article which shows a step by step procedure on how to brush our teeth
    How to brush teethHow to brush teeth

    . Another great doggy iBle. A little patience goes a long ways. . Do you really brush your dog's teeth every day? I inspect mines' mouth/teeth about once a month and don't brush their teeth but about every six months. Maybe sooner if they find some litter box crunchies.

    4 replies

    I try to fit it in everyday, of course sometimes we do miss. While it's better than nothing, once every six months isn't doing anything for your dog's teeth. If they stay clean, your dogs must just the right balance of bacteria in their mouths. You have to remove the buildup while it's still soft and white before it becomes tartar, the hard yellow stuff. This can't be removed just by brushing, but only by a dental scaling because it builds up underneath the gum as well as on the tooth's outer surface. I don't mean to preach but after dealing with so many rescue dog's teeth issues (especially small breeds, which can have some pretty rank teeth) and seeing what lack of dental care can do, I think it's very important. My current dog gets tartar like there's no tomorrow and I really hate to have him put under for cleanings so we take preventative measures. He really does LOVE his toothpaste so he jumps up on the sofa if you say "teefies". :) In closing, think about how often you brush your own teeth. Every day? Why shouldn't your dog?

    I brush my dog's teeth once a week. It was what the vet told me at minimum. But he hates it so much. I'm going to try it this way and go slow to try to get him to like it better.

    > your dogs must just the right balance of bacteria in their mouths
    . Well, they don't get much soft food and they have plenty of chew toys. Other than that, I guess I'm just lucky. I have had dogs that would need to have a minor teeth cleaning every 2-3 years, but I have the vet check the teeth every visit so it's was caught early enough not to be a big problem.
    > I don't mean to preach but after dealing with so many rescue dog's
    . I don't think you're preaching. Just a concerned dog lover. ;)
    . I worked at a local shelter for a while and know where you're coming from. I've even "confiscated and redistributed" a few mistreated dogs over the years.
    > think about how often you brush your own teeth. Every day? Why shouldn't your dog?
    . Well, I don't rinse my mouth with eau de toilette every few hours or eat kitty krunchies (dolomite ought to be a good tartar remover). heehee
    . Seriously, it is something that the vet and I keep an eye on. Thanks for being concerned.

    Sounds like your dogs are lucky to have you! Yes, the kitty krunchies are probably a good floss substitute! Sadly not mint flavored. :)

    Great instructionable, I have been wondering how to do this. Thank you!