How To Start A Doggie Dental Routine [Have Your Pup Smiling]

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Dog breath. Of the things you love about your best friend, it’s probably not at the top of the list. But there’s a reason puppy breath is so much more tolerable than adult canine breath. Although we often take our pets’ teeth for granted, they actually suffer from plaque and tartar buildup just like humans.

In fact, by age three, most dogs suffer from at least some level of periodontal disease. Overtime, it can lead to pain, infections or tooth loss. In severe cases, bacteria can even enter their bloodstream and affect their heart, liver or kidneys. Yikes!

So beyond freshening up his breath somewhat, starting a doggie dental routine is vital to your dog’s overall health and vitality. That means brushing his teeth (ideally every day) and paying attention to their diet.

Yeah, it sounds a little overwhelming at first. But with a bit of love and patience, your dog will have a brighter smile and be giving you less stinky kisses for years to come. Plus, you’ll save on the hefty vet bills that come along with surgical teeth cleaning.

What Does a Healthy Mouth Look Like?

Dog smiling side and running in the leaves

Before you jump straight into brushing, you should know what a healthy dog mouth looks like in the first place. If your friend is in good health…

1. All teeth should obviously be intact

2. There should be no discolorations on the teeth (which is a sign of tartar and plaque)

3. The tongue should be moist with no lumps or cuts

4. The gums should be salmon pink (unless you have a breed with black and pink gums)

If you spot a problem like lumps, broken teeth, or swollen or bleeding gums, it’s time to see your vet before beginning a dental hygiene routine.

Related: Is Pet Insurance Worth It? [How To Protect Your Fur Babies]

How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Dog owner brushing French Bulldogs teeth

Ah, if only your dog could learn to brush his teeth. Now that would be a great trick!

Unfortunately, your little buddy is going to depend on you to keep his pearly whites intact. But obviously, you’re not going to be able to jump in there right away.

First, you’ll need to build up some trust. The following is a step-by-step breakdown on how to make dental care a pleasant (or at least tolerable) experience for you and your dog.

1. Get You Dog Used To Having His Mouth Touched

Before you even think about getting in your dog’s mouth with a brush or toothpaste, you’ll need to get your dog ok with having his mouth touched in the first place. You can start by gently stroking his muzzle and cheeks.

Do this for several days until you see he can stay relaxed while you’re touching him. It may take a little patience, but be sure not to rush your pet. And a little treat at the end of your session will help too!

2. Introduce the Doggie Toothpaste

It’s still not time for the brush yet, but now you can put a little pet toothpaste on your finger. It’s really important that you choose a brand specially formulated for dogs as human toothpaste often contains chemicals that are toxic for canines.

Many doggie pastes have fun flavors like chicken or peanut butter. Let your dog lick the paste off your finger and gently rub your fingers inside his mouth around the gum line.

3. Introduce the Toothbrush

Once you see your dog is comfortable with the previous step, you can introduce the toothbrush. But don’t put it in his mouth right away. Just let him lick the doggie toothpaste off of it at first.

4. Start Brushing Their Teeth

Again, all of these steps may take several days. But once your dog is comfortable, you can gently put the brush in his mouth and start cleaning in a circular motion. Start at the front of the mouth around the gumline and pay special attention to the outside of the teeth. That’s where most of the plaque builds up.

Take your time and let him stop and lick the toothbrush if he wants. And if he loses patience, don’t worry! Stop the session, give him a dog treat and continue another day.

5. Continue the process with patience and dog treats until you can brush his whole mouth

More Doggie Dental Hacks

After a few weeks, you should be able to brush your pet’s teeth without a minimum of doggie drama. But if you can’t pull it off every day or your pooch simply won’t budge on the issue, there are a few things you can do to promote his oral health.


Though it can’t replace daily brushing, just the act of chewing can help to scrape away plaque. Crunchy dog food is better than soft food for oral hygiene, as the latter sticks to the teeth and promotes bacterial growth.

There are even some dog foods formulated specifically for oral care.

Chew Toys

As long as you don’t give your dog anything too hard (like hooves or steak bones), a good long chew is healthy for his teeth.

Even artificial toys with a rough, bumpy surface like Nylabones can help with plaque.

And let’s not forget chew toys that are dog toothbrushes, like this one from Natural Dog Treats. The Dental Care Kit has everything you need to get started on your doggie dental routine and works great for large dogs and small dogs.

Related: The 9 Most Interactive Dog Toys [For Your Playful Pup]

Dental Wipes

Don’t have time for brushing? Dental pads for canines are available at pet stores and be used to quickly wipe your pet’s mouth.

Doggie Toothpaste & Toothbrushes

You can pick up a dog toothbrush at your local pet store or any online pet supplier retailer like Petco or Chewy. Some have a handle and look just like a human toothbrush. Others slip onto your finger, which may be less intimidating for some dogs.

If this is your first attempt at brushing your dogs teeth, you might want to consider a pet toothbrush kit with many types of brushes. That way, you and your dog can try different styles together.

Again, you’re going to need some toothpaste specially made for your furry friend as they can’t spit, and human toothpaste can be toxic for them. Many come in flavor like chicken, beef or seafood. You may need to experiment to see which your dog likes best.

Look for toothpaste that contains enzymes. They help break down the plaque on your dog’s teeth by coming in contact with them so you can keep brushing to a minimum.

Here are 5 top doggie toothpastes according to reviews:

Enzadent Enzymatic Toothpaste for Dogs and Cats:

  • With real poultry flavoring
  • Triple enzyme formula

Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste:

  • Removes and prevents plaque
  • Four flavor options

Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste For Dogs:

  • Cleans with enzymes
  • Fights gum disease

Arm & Hammer Dog Dental Care Toothpaste:

  • Cleans with enzymes
  • Gentle enough for puppies

TropiClean No Brushing Oral Care Gel:

  • No brushing required
  • Cleans with enzymes
  • Four Flavor Options

That Happy Puppy Smile You Love

Puppy getting its teeth brushed

Well, there you have it. Everything you need to know before you embark (emphasis on the bark) on your doggie’s dental routine. Ideally, it’s best to start when your dog is a pup so that they’ll be accustomed to it from an early age.

But if your dog is more mature, no worries. As it turns out, you can teach an old dog a few new tricks!

Remember that in addition to brushing, you’ll need to have your vet check your dog’s oral health once or twice a year.

With a little help from a great tasting dog toothpaste and toothbrush, you can say goodbye to bad breath and hello clean teeth and a brighter smile for years to come!

You might also be interested in: 10 Of The Top Life Jackets For Dogs

Sherry De Alba

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