A step-by-step guide to brushing your dog’s teeth

March 22, 2021

Keeping their coat lush, nails neatly trimmed, and vaccinations up-to-date aren’t the only essential aspects of taking care of a dog. As a fur parent, you also need to tend to your pet’s dental health.

Like humans, dogs can also develop plaque that may cause bad breath and lead to a host of serious problems, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. If left unchecked, these dental issues can escalate and lead to infection or even tooth loss.

Giving your dog proper dental care can be tricky, especially if this is your first time caring for a dog. Here, we’ll teach you how to brush your dog’s teeth, so your dog can maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.

A step-by-step guide to brushing your dog’s teeth

[Photo Credit: New Africa]

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Ideally, a dog’s teeth should be brushed twice a day. The minimum recommended schedule is three times a week to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar.


Time to groom your dog?
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What tools do I need?

  • toothbrush for dogs

Choose a toothbrush specially designed for dogs, or for small dogs a soft toothbrush designed for babies can work well. Toothbrushes for dogs often have angled handles, multiple heads or are designed to fit over your finger to give better access to your dog’s teeth.

  • dog-safe toothpaste

You should only use tooth dog-safe toothpaste and never use baking soda or human toothpaste. Human toothpastes may have ingredients such as fluoride and xylitol, which are toxic to dogs.

  • sterile gloves

Your dog’s mouth contains many bacteria, so it’s a good idea to wear medical gloves when brushing your dog’s teeth. Afterward, dispose of the gloves and rinse the toothbrush well, and store it in a clean, dry place. Your dog’s toothbrush should be replaced every three months.

How to brush your dog’s teeth

1. Ease your dog into the tooth-brushing process

Prepare your dog for brushing by, first getting them used to you touching their mouth and teeth. Slowly putting your fingers in their mouth, touching their teeth and gums. Gently lift their lips to expose the teeth. At this stage, you can also slowly introduce a dog-friendly toothpaste to the routine, so they can get used to its taste and texture.  This process should ideally be repeated several times for around two to three days.
If you’re planning on brushing a puppy’s teeth, it’s best to give them an early start—ideally, when they’re between eight and sixteen weeks old. Start by using a smaller dog-friendly toothbrush and establish a routine.

2. Pick the right time and place

Make sure that your dog is calm and relaxed before you begin brushing. It helps if you’re in a comfortable and well-lit environment without any distractions.

3. Test the toothbrush

Once your dog is used to a gentle brushing motion with your finger, switch to using the toothbrush, and use gentle, circular motions, focusing on areas of plaque build-up.

4. Constantly reassure your dog

Talk to your dog throughout the process to keep them calm. Pat their head or stroke their jowls. After brushing their teeth, provide lots of positive reinforcement. Offer them their favourite treat or play with them for a while.

How to clean dog teeth without brushing

But, what if your dog just won’t tolerate tooth brushing? Here are some other ways to care for your dog’s dental health:

  • Use dental treats or chews that can help reduce tartar accumulation. However, these types of dog treats should only be given occasionally as they can be high in calories.
  • Use canine dental wipes or dog-friendly food additives which, when added to food or water,  can help combat bacteria and eliminate plaque and tartar.

If you’re not feeling up to the task, you can ask your pet groomer to brush your dog’s teeth or share some tips. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re planning to do more than a light tooth brushing on your dog, it’s best to bring your pet to a veterinarian for a more thorough examination and cleaning.

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