Dental disease (especially periodontal disease) is the most common disease in our canine companions. It is also one of the most preventable and treatable diseases. We can reduce or even prevent dental disease by daily teeth brushing, adding appropriate chew toys or treats, and having professional teeth cleanings. The following are steps to guide you on how to brush your dog’s teeth:
- Start with a clean, healthy mouth, such as with a young pet with healthy new teeth and gums or after your dog has had a professional teeth cleaning.
You will need a soft-bristled tooth brush and veterinary toothpaste. Do not use human toothpastes and baking soda because they will cause illness. Veterinary toothpastes have flavors that are appealing to dogs. Anything other than a bristled tooth brush will not get below the gum line (the most important area to brush).
- There are several important facts about our pets’ mouths that tell us when, where, and how to brush. Periodontal disease usually affects the upper, back teeth first and worst. Plaque builds up on the tooth surface daily, especially just under the gum line. It takes less than 36 hours for this plaque to become mineralized and harden into “tarter” (calculus) that cannot be removed with a brush. Because of this progression, brushing should be done daily, with a brush to remove the plaque from under the gum line.
- Pick a time of day that will become a convenient part of your pet’s and your daily routine. Brushing before a daily treat can help your pet look forward to brushing time. Take a few days to let both of you get use to the process. Follow with praise and a treat each time. Always make it a positive experience.
– Start by offering him/her a taste of the veterinary toothpaste. Then next time let your pet taste the toothpaste, then run your finger along the gums of the upper teeth. Repeat the process with the tooth brush. Get the bristles of the brush along the gum line of the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line. Work from back to front, making small circles along the gum lines. It should take you less than 30 seconds to brush your pet’s teeth. Do not try to brush the entire mouth at first. If all that your pet lets you brush is the outside of the upper teeth, you are still addressing the most important area of periodontal disease prevention. If your pet eventually allows you to brush most of their teeth, the more the better.
– Even with the best tooth brushing, dogs still need professional teeth cleanings, just like humans. By brushing your pet’s teeth daily and curtailing the amount of periodontal disease, you may reduce the frequency and involvement of dental cleanings and provide your pet with a healthier, sweeter smile.