You’ve probably been taught from a very early age about how important it is to brush your teeth every day, not to mention flossing and going to the dentist. Oral hygiene is important, even though it’s easy to overlook sometimes. This is true not only for you, but also for your dog. We’re going to take a look at the best methods and cleaning products for your dog’s teeth to keep them happy and healthy!
Every tooth is important making sure that the dog’s food is properly processed before it travels down the esophagus and begins its journey through the digestive system.
In humans, tooth problems cause other issues too, from gum disease to serious and life-threatening infections. This is also true for dogs. Their teeth need to stay clean, and sometimes, they need a little extra help from their owners.
Dogs Have Baby Teeth, Too: What You Need to Know about Tooth Eruption and Exfoliation in Dogs
Just like us, dogs have both temporary “deciduous teeth,” and permanent teeth that are there to last for their entire life.
The first set comes in around three to six weeks. The second set come in when they’re three months old, six at most. If you have a very young puppy, this is something you need to keep in mind.
The process works about the same as it does in humans. And like young humans, teething can be uncomfortable, so you may want to have some chewable toys on hand to help soothe their aching gums.
The permanent teeth should come in by the time your dog is six months of age. Normally, this is a pretty straightforward and natural process. You should be aware that just like in humans, complications can occur from time to time. Some of the potential problems that can arise as your dog’s deciduous or permanent teeth come in can include the following.
- Delayed eruption of deciduous teeth. Your dog’s “baby teeth” should come in by six weeks. If not, you may want to take them to your vet. In some dogs, there’s an unusual dense type of gum tissue over the teeth, making it hard for them to erupt normally. There’s a simple surgical procedure to fix this, but it’s best to have it done before the age of nine weeks.
- Missing permanent teeth. Like in humans, the permanent teeth are initially underneath the deciduous teeth. Sometimes, one of them just isn’t there. The baby tooth doesn’t come out if there’s no permanent tooth underneath it, and it can stay functional for years. However, it may still eventually need to be extracted.
- Fractured baby teeth. When your puppy chews on things it really shouldn’t be chewing, its baby teeth can actually fracture. This exposes the pulp inside the tooth, which is prone to infections. This requires tooth extraction.
These aren’t all that common, and in most dogs, both sets of teeth come in just fine. But, they are possibilities to be considered.
Do I Need to Clean My Dog’s Teeth?
Brushing a dog’s teeth is probably the last thing on your mind. But unfortunately, a lot of dogs have some kind of undiagnosed oral pathology. Some experts estimate as many as 80% of dogs have some kind of dental or periodontal problem.
Dogs suffer from a lot of the same oral health problems as humans, like gingivitis and tooth decay. They have bacteria in their mouth that form biofilms of tartar and plaque, just as we do.
Bad oral hygiene is bad news for your dog. Gum disease, in particular, is a big risk factor for other, more serious afflictions. The offending bacteria can emit secretions that can damage the tissues in other organs throughout the body, including the brain and kidneys.
This gets more and more likely as your dog gets older.
Fortunately, you can prevent gum disease by making sure you’re taking proper care of your dog’s teeth.
Here’s What You’ll Need for Keeping Those Chompers Healthy
Taking care of your dog’s teeth starts with the right supplies. Chances are, at least some of these things are something you don’t already own.
Best Dog Toothbrush
Yes, dog-specific toothbrushes are a thing! They do make toothbrushes specifically designed for dogs’ dentition to get all the spots that your pooch needs you to get to. Dogs may have some of the same kinds of teeth that we do, but as you can see, the size and the shape of the mouth are quite different. Dog toothbrushes are more angled, and they also tend to be quite soft.
For such a small cost (often $10 or less), this is one investment you have to get onboard with. This doggie toothbrush will easily pay for itself by helping you avoid expensive vet bills down the road.
Best Dog Toothpaste
Of course, simply using a toothbrush doesn’t quite get the job done. Adding toothpaste into the mix helps to truly clean your dogs teeth and fight plaque build-up. This special doggie toothpaste is specially designed for the bacteria that lives in a pet’s mouth and also even fights bad breath!
Worried about your dog letting toothpaste anywhere near their mouth? Luckily, many dog toothpastes are also made in flavors that dog love too. The above example is poultry flavored – disgusting for humans, but dogs love it! It will be like giving your dog a treat every time you have to brush their teeth so they’ll actually look forward to it.
Best Dog Dental Wipes
Some dogs react negatively to a toothbrush being stuck in their mouth, in which case you might need a different option. For these dogs, you should look into these Dog Dental Wipes. Dental wipes are just what they sound like – a small cloth carrying some cleaning solution that you wipe over your dogs teeth and gums to get them clean. For whatever reason, dogs may react much better to what they interpret as your finger being poked around their mouth rather than a foreign object. Dogs tend to love the flavor of these wipes as well, which helps.
Best Dog Dental Treats
Of course, the holy grail of all dog cleaning products – the treats! Treats like Greenies have a taste dogs love, and there’s no work in it for you! Greenies have a special texture and ingredient list that helps clean your dogs teeth as they eat them. It’s hard to ensure your dog will get all of their teeth clean with treats like Greenies alone, so we recommend you use them to supplement other cleaning methods, not replace.
Cleaning Your Dog’s Teeth
So how do you actually go about brushing a dog’s teeth? Here’s a quick step-by-step run through of the general process.
- Before you start, spend some time handling his teeth first. If your dog is already an adult and he’s not used to having his teeth brushed, he’ll probably be confused about what you’re trying to do. It’s a good idea to get him used to having your hands in and near his mouth first. One way you can do this is letting him lick peanut butter off your fingertips. As you get him used to this, start acquainting him with having his mouth opened and his teeth examined. This is a preliminary step, and it can take some time before you’re able to actually start brushing his teeth every day.
- Let your dog sniff the toothpaste and the toothbrush. Before his first brushing, let your dog sniff your supplies. Most dog toothpastes are meat flavored, so he’ll probably be pretty interested in it.
- Move his lips aside to brush the front teeth. The first few times, this might be about as far as you get.
- Over time, increase the number of teeth you brush. After a while, your dog should get comfortable giving you access to all of his teeth. Brush them gently in a circular motion, just as you’d do with your own teeth. Don’t forget to brush the gums gently, too.
- End the tooth brushing session with a reward. Whether’s it’s a special dental dog treat, a trip to the dog park, or something else your dog loves, make sure he associates having his teeth cleaned with a positive experience.
And that’s all there really is to it. As we said, getting your dog comfortable with this can be an ongoing process. Don’t expect to brush all of their teeth the first time out. But in the long run, making a habit of brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is one of the best things you can do for their oral health.
Healthy Teeth for Life
It’s okay if you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before. A lot of people don’t even think about that kind of thing, but it’s never too late to start. By making a habit of keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy, you can improve their long term health and make sure they have strong teeth throughout their entire lifetime.