You love your dog and you care about their health. You are buying the best dog food, having fun playing fetch and making sure your dog is up to date on vaccines. However, most dog owners neglect their dog’s dental health.

OK, so you don’t like to go to the dentist. I get that! But it is important for you and your families best friend to have a healthy mouth.

This article will explain the importance of dental care for your dog and walk you step by step towards achieving that goal. 

Regular dental care will help your dog’s overall health.  An abscessed tooth can cause pain, stress, and loss of appetite. In addition, the bacteria that live in tooth decay and plaque can travel into the body and enter the bloodstream. This may cause heart, joint or liver problems.

Sadly, poor dental health is very common in dogs. In a study conducted by the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition 84% of beagles, 43% of miniature schnauzers, as well as 96% of toy poodles over the age of four had developed periodontal disease.
Dr. Glaza examining the dog’s mouth. Photo: Ame Vanorio

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease (PD) is simply a bacterial infection in their mouth. PD can lead to significant health problems This may be caused by plaque, gingivitis (gum disease), and rotting teeth.

  • Stinky breathe
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Yellow/brown discolored teeth
  • Missing or loose teeth
  • Weight loss or choosing soft foods or toys over dry food or chew toys

If you said yes to any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet for a dental check-up.

Before the teeth are covered with tarter. The tube in the dogs mouth provides sedation and oxygen. The clip-on his tongue is a heart rate monitor.

What Can You Expect From A Dog Dental?

Your veterinarian will check your dog’s teeth during their annual exam. If they feel your pooch needs a dental they will discuss that procedure with you.

Other times you may have observed some of the symptoms above and made an appointment for your dog to have a dental cleaning.

During a dental, the dog first receives an exam to see what needs to be done to improve their oral health. Your veterinarian may decide some teeth are rotten and need to be pulled. Pulling teeth alleviates pain and reduces the risk of infections.

Next, a Licensed Veterinary Tech will clean your dog’s teeth with tools very similar to what your dentist uses.

Starting A Dental Care Routine  

We understand that most of our clients may not have a dental care routine. That’s OK. The best time to start is now.

It is easiest to start on a young dog as they are more accepting of new things and are easily motivated by play. But don’t worry if your dog is older. Just take it slow and offer treats to help them get used to your fingers in their mouth.

Ideally, you will strive to brush your dog’s teeth every day. Three times per week should be the minimum. If your dog has limited patience you can alternate sides. Do the left side on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the right side on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

Step by Step Guide To Brushing Your Dogs Teeth

What you will need

A toothbrush in the correct size for your dog. You can use a human toothbrush or purchase a toothbrush made for dogs.

  • A human adult toothbrush is good for medium to large breeds
  • A human child’s toothbrush for small breeds
  • A toy breed needs a special dog brush for their smaller mouth.


  • Purchase toothpaste for dogs such as Nutri-Vet Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste
  • Human toothpaste contains fillers such as sugars, In addition, dog toothpaste comes in yummy canine flavors.

Brushing your dog’s teeth

  • Begin by wetting the toothbrush and placing on it a small amount of toothpaste
  • Next, gently wrap your hand around your dog’s muzzle and hold shut. This will prevent them from chewing on the toothbrush or accidentally your fingers
  • Using the hand that’s holding the muzzle take your fingers and pull back the top lip
  • Start by brushing the long canine teeth
  • Continue working towards the back of the mouth
  • Do the top teeth and then move to the lower teeth.
  • Lastly, brush the front teeth. This is a sensitive area in the dog’s mouth so you may get some resistance from your dog.
    Sometimes it is necessary to extract teeth.

Tips For Success

Make it a regular habit and choose a time of day that works for you. Many people find it easiest to do their dog dental routine before bed when they do their own.

Be patient! This is most likely new for both of you.

Keep it short. Two or three minutes is all it takes.

Praise your pup and give a treat for good behavior.  

Feeding For Healthy Teeth

Diet is an important part of your dog’s dental health. Dogs evolved as omnivores, eating mostly meat with some plant matter. They have a total of 42 teeth which includes 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars.

While your dog no longer needs to hunt for its prey they still have the same basic nutritional needs. A high-quality kibble will help rub tarter off the dog’s teeth while they chew.

Omega-3’s are not just for joint health but can also help with periodontal inflammation. Talk to your vet about adding them to your dog’s diet.

Treats can also help keep your dog’s teeth cleaned.
Dr. Nathan Glaza recommends OraVet. These make a great treat for your dog. You can buy OraVet at our online pharmacy.

Dr. Glaza says to avoid rawhide chews. Rawhide is very hard and can break your dog’s teeth as well as cause digestion issues.

Dog toys that are high-density rubber such as Kong toys are great for massaging the gums and preventing tartar buildup. 

Take Away

Good dental care is just as important for your pet as it is for you. Talk to your vet about a dental hygiene plan and start brushing your teeth today.
Afterward – bright, shiny, white teeth

Author, Ame Vanorio, is the director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She lives on her farm in Kentucky with too many animals to count!