How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth [+ 7 Tips to Naturally Keep Them Healthy]

Do you want to keep your dog’s teeth healthy? Maybe you are concerned, because you have noticed your dog’s teeth getting a little yellow and you want to make sure that they don’t experience problems chewing or eating in later life. Either way, if you make a change now, then you’ll soon find that it’s more than possible for you to not only stop the damage from getting wors, but that you may also be able to reverse it to some extent.

Techniques to clean your dog’s teeth

©istockphoto/Clay_Harrison

There are many ways to clean your dog’s teeth, including using food or even dental treats. You can also take them to the vet to have their teeth cleaned professionally.

Brush your dog’s teeth

If you want to make sure that you brush your dog’s teeth properly, then you’ll find some tips to help you with that below.

Buy a dog-specific tooth brush and dog-friendly toothpaste

It’s so important that you buy a toothbrush that is specific to dogs. They are shaped and styled to get between their teeth and normally they come with a smaller brush on the other side too. This will help you to get to those hard-to-reach areas. Buying a dog-friendly toothbrush will also help you to remove plaque. Toothpaste for dogs is usually tasty too, so they’ll look forward to having their teeth brushed.

Begin brushing, using circular motions

When you brush your dog’s teeth, make the effort to do a circular motion. This will ensure that you remove the plaque quickly and effectively.

Position yourself so that your dog doesn’t feel pinned

Don’t tower over your dog and also don’t make them feel threatened. If they want to back away, let them do so, but encourage them back. This is a much more effective way to brush your dog’s teeth, as it doesn’t make them fearful. Click here to get some tips for brushing your dog’s teeth.

Watch for signs of bleeding or tender areas

Another thing that you have to do is watch out for any signs of your dog’s gum’s bleeding. Looking out for tender areas will also help you to make it a more positive experience for your dog.

Repeat multiple times per week

If your dog doesn’t like the toothbrush, then wrap some gauze around your finger. When you’ve done this, get it wet and then dab it in either some baking soda or some dog toothpaste. Rub it on your dog’s teeth gently and don’t do the entire mouth at once. Just one-quarter of their mouth is great. Each time you do it, do a different area of the mouth. With a lot of practice, your dog will become more accepting, and you’ll be able to do their whole mouth in hardly any time at all.

Keep your dog’s teeth clean and white naturally

©istockphoto/betyarlaca

If you want to keep your dog’s teeth white naturally, read below.

Feed your pup high-quality food

Feeding your dog a good food helps your dog in many ways, including keeping their teeth healthier. Quality food, preferably made with whole foods, will nourish their body, which also means stronger teeth. Avoid foods made with by-products, meals, and cereal grains as they are more apt to stick to your dog’s teeth. Instead, look for a food made from meats, vegetables, and fruits. Feeding your dog some human-grade dog food will also be great for their teeth.

Serve vegetables and fruits for snacks

Dogs love snacks and owners love giving them. But many snacks are horrible for your dog’s dental health; especially those that contain sugar, fats, and cereal grains. However, carrots or carrot slices, apple slices, or a chunk of squash or pumpkin are good snacks that most dogs enjoy—and the best part is they won’t stick to your dog’s teeth. Plus, although these foods won’t cause established plaque to disappear, as your dog chews them they will scrape food off their teeth. Feed appropriate amounts to your dog based on their size; never more than ten percent of their overall daily calorie intake. Vegetables for dogs are very good when used as training treats, so use this to your advantage.

Use dried meat treats as dental chews

There are a wide variety of dried meat treats available that provide excellent chewing action that will help keep the teeth clean. Dried beef ears or snouts, dried tendons, esophagus, and similar pieces are eagerly accepted by most dogs, even those who are finicky about their snacks.

Give your dog chew toys

If your dog will chew on hard rubber or nylon chew toys, these are excellent for scraping and cleaning teeth. Offer the toy after each meal and encourage your dog to chew on it for a bit. If you have a hard-chewing dog, make sure that you buy a toy that is suited to their jaw strength. A bigger dog will need a bigger chew, and so forth.

Offer raw bones to scrape teeth clean

Just like a good toy, bones will clean off teeth, too. The best bones are uncooked and large, preferably from a cow. A small bone (or a cooked one) will break or splinter, may get stuck in your dog’s mouth, or your dog may try to swallow it whole. Always supervise your dog when he’s chewing on a bone to make sure he doesn’t break off pieces of the bone. Some veterinarians argue against the bone-chewing idea, so if you want a second opinion, go ask yours to see what they say. At the end of the day, raw bones are a very good option if you source them from a reputable supplier.

Avoid chew bones made of starches

The commercial chews or bones made from starches (usually potato, corn, or rice flours) tend to be more sticky than vegetables or dried meat chews. When your dog’s teeth scrapes up against this sort of stuff, it normally has the opposite effect as chewing on a cow bone. Plus, if you read the ingredients labels of these treats, you may find you don’t want your dog to eat them. Of course, if you don’t want to give your dog a bone or rawhide, then you may want to explore alternatives to rawhide. When you do, you will soon find that there are many different options out there and that all of them come with their own set of benefits.

Start a routine and try to scrub those teeth weekly

Even if you know deep down in your heart that there’s no way you’ll brush your dog’s teeth after every meal or even every day, try to establish some kind of a teeth cleaning routine. If you can follow a few of the suggestions above, and then clean your dog’s teeth at least once a week, you’re on the right path.

Have your vet professionally clean your dog’s teeth

© iStock Photo / Chalabala

Sometimes it may be necessary to have your vet clean your dog’s teeth. When this happens, your vet will put your dog under anesthetic. When they are asleep, your vet will use various tools to clean the plaque away from your dog’s teeth. This is only usually done if your dog is having a problem eating, or if they have particularly bad decay. Sometimes if your dog has so much plaque that the issue cannot be resolved by other means, your vet may offer to clean your dog’s teeth for you. Of course, some vets offer routine teeth cleaning, but this can vary depending on the age and general health of your dog, so you need to keep this in mind as much as possible when you consider it as an option.

Signs your dog needs veterinary help

Sometimes, even though you put in a ton of effort and work, dental problems can occur. The first sign that something is wrong is if you smell a very strong odor coming from their mouth. If you sniff your dog’s breath and you grimace, then this indicates that something is wrong. Take a look at their teeth and their gums. Your dog’s teeth should be clean and white, and their gums should be nice and pink. If you see brown on their teeth and you notice that their gums are red then now would be the time for you to call the vet. A red line on your dog’s teeth shows that they are experiencing irritation. Other signs that your dog may have a dental problem include them drooling, not having much of an appetite or having a hard time eating. They may also have loose teeth, or teeth that have fallen out. If this is the case, then you need to take your dog to the vet as this is the only way for you to make sure that they are not being put in danger.  Your vet will be able to deal with any tartar build-up so talk to your vet about this if possible.

Common dental ailments and diseases to watch for

Some of the common issues that dog’s experience when they have problems with their teeth include:

  • Cysts
  • Halitosis
  • Plaque
Cysts

Follicular and radicular cysts are often diagnosed in dogs. Dentigerous cysts are very common, and they are most often seen in smaller dogs. That being said, they can occur in every breed. Unerupted teeth are often found when these cysts are present. Oral cysts on the other hand are benign lesions. As they expand, they can leak fluid and this will lead to severe destruction. Your dog may experience periodontal tissue disease, loose teeth and bone decay.

Halitosis

Halitosis in dogs is a medical term that can be used to describe an offensive odor from the mouth. Most of the time, periodontal disease is the cause of this condition. This often stems from plaque build-up. Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the best ways for you to try and prevent issues like this from occurring.

Plaque

Some amount of plaque is normal on your dog’s teeth. After all, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, sometimes plaque will form. You do need to make sure that you do everything you can to ensure that you take additional action against this plaque if possible, such as by taking your dog to get their teeth cleaned by the vet and by making the effort to provide them with dental chews. This will reduce any stubborn plaque and it will also help to stop the plaque from having too much of an impact on your dog’s oral health.

Try the Honest Kitchen’s dental chews

So there are many things that you can do to make sure that your dog’s teeth are kept in the best possible condition at all times. If you are brushing your dog’s teeth all the time then this is great, but by providing your dog with chews and also by taking them to the vet on a regular basis, you can be sure to give them the highest chance of living a long, healthy and happy life free from tooth decay.

If you want to make sure that you are helping your dog to keep their teeth healthy, but you are concerned about giving them bones, rawhide or even chews then this is understandable. After all, some dogs struggle with possessive issues and others simply don’t have the strength to bite down as hard as they need to. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into the other options on the market when it comes to dog chews so you can ensure that they are able to get something that suits them.

Some of our favorite products are below:

Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet’s veterinarian or other healthcare professionals for specific guidance on this topic.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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