Tag Archives: brushing dog’s teeth

Brush your dog’s teeth – shine those pearly whites!

Should you brush your dog’s teeth?

Well, of course you should brush your dog’s teeth. And, equally “of course” most people don’t. 

There is a school of thought that says it’s not necessary, especially among people who give their dogs raw, natural bones to chew on. Those people say the “gnawing” action cleans the dog’s teeth just fine and no further brushing is necessary. If it works for you and your dog, you may not need to brush your dog’s teeth.

An ounce of prevention

In our experience, dogs are a lot like people. Some go their whole lives with no dental issues. Others are constantly at the dentist’s office for something. 

It’s a fact that small dogs are more prone to dental issues than big dogs. We don’t know why that’s the case, but we do know we have to deal with it. And our answer has always been to brush our dogs’ teeth at least once once every week.

Veterinary advice

Veterinarians actually advise brushing your dog’s teeth a few times every week. If your household is anything like ours, that’s just not going to happen. Sorry, Dr. Jan, but we just can’t.

Simply put, we’re afraid every time our dogs have to undergo anesthesia. If we can avoid it by taking five minutes every week to tend to their teeth – we’re going to do it as the lesser of evils. It also gives us a chance to take a look at what’s going on in their mouths, if there are any sore spots, or growths, just take a look and see that everything’s okay.

Do they like it? No. Not one of them enjoys it. Do they let us? Yes, because we’ve established the routine since the day we brought each one home. And we’ve developed a method that keeps it short, manageable, and less unpleasant for everyone. 

Dogs love routine

It’s true that dogs like knowing what to expect. They like having schedules and routines. Like when the clocks change from Daylight Savings Time – you know your dog is going to get you up an hour earlier. The “Spring Ahead” part is fine – dogs will never object to getting fed an hour earlier. But the “Fall Back” is a pain – we never get the extra hour of sleep we were anticipating. Because the dogs’ internal clocks are telling them it’s time to get up. 

So on Sunday mornings, we lay out our supplies for our weekly “ablutions.” And each dog, in turn, gets his nails trimmed, teeth brushed, face washed, and ears cleaned. They know what’s coming, so they don’t mind too much.

Favorite flavor

Over the years we’ve tried all kinds of different dog toothpastes with all kinds of flavors; beef, peanut butter, liver (that one was not pleasant for anyone!), even vanilla. The dogs hated all of them. And as we read ingredient lists that were getting longer and less pronounceable, we started making our own toothpaste. Our great-grandparents would recognize our recipe – just coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint oil. It’s by far our dogs’ favorite toothpaste, and ours, too!

The equipment list is short – gauze (or a washcloth), toothpaste, and water. That’s it. We just dampen the cloth, grab a little paste from the jar, and rub it on our dogs’ teeth. Brushing your dog’s teeth doesn’t need to take long or be complicated. It just has to get done.

Positive results

Since we started the tooth-brushing routine over a decade ago, not one of our dogs has required a professional tooth cleaning. No anesthesia, no added expenses. And our dogs have retained all of their teeth into their senior years.

Showing Boston Terrier's teeth
Booker needs a little flossing, but at six years old, his teeth are looking good.

Of course every dog is different. Just like people, dogs’ mouth chemistry differs among individuals. Some are more prone to plaque buildup than others. Just among our own dogs, their saliva varies. Booker (Boston Terrier) has the most slimy, thick spit you’ve ever experienced. Simon, also a Boston, has much more rinse-able saliva. Simon also has retained baby teeth at this point, which we keep an eye on. Our weekly exam lets us know if anything’s changing. 

Keep it simple

If you’re tempted to start brushing your dog’s teeth, as with all dog training, don’t go for a home run the first time at bat. Show the dog the cloth. Let him/her sniff the toothpaste. Even lick it if she wants to. Introduce everything gradually and, chances are, your dog will come to tolerate, if not enjoy, the attention. 

Dog Tip – A brush a week keeps the vet bills away

I let my dogs gnaw on my fingers once a week. And you should, too!
It’s not really fun for any of us, but it’s saved our dogs teeth – and a ton of money for us.
Yes, we brush our dogs’ teeth once a week.
Fanatics say it should be every day, but we can’t commit to that.
Others say they never do it – either because their dogs won’t let them, they don’t have time,
or they just don’t bother.
Still others say they never have to, because their dogs chew on raw bones and don’t need
it. (Ours enjoy bones, too. And yes, they still need their teeth brushed.)
We started small with each of the dogs as soon as we brought them home, rubbing a damp
washcloth over their teeth a couple of times a week. Not very long, and not all of the teeth
at once. We built up slowly, over time, to get them used to the idea. And to allow time for
all those needle-sharp puppy teeth to fall out before we stuck our hands in their mouths!
Everyone should give their dogs’ teeth a brush (or a wipe) at least once in a while to get
familiar with how your dog’s mouth looks under normal circumstances.
Teddy has had a few incidents with his mouth over the years, all found because of regular
tooth-brushing. And all dealt with before the issues became major. One time Hope found a
swelling in Teddy’s gums during his brush. It turned out to be a growth that needed surgical
removal. Fortunately, it was benign.
Another time Teddy had fractured one of his teeth and a chunk of it was hanging by a
thread. Again, discovered during brushing, and removed before it could cause any major
Brushing your dog’s teeth will also help with bad breath. A normal, healthy dog’s mouth
really shouldn’t smell. If your dog does have stinky breath, it could be an indication of a
problem in his mouth, or with his digestion. Rotting teeth can poison a dog’s entire system
and lead to all kinds of problems.
And brushing your dog’s teeth should appeal to everyone’s frugal side. Before we started
we used to have each dog’s teeth professionally cleaned once a year. With the anesthesia
(always a cause of concern), surgery, professional fees, etc., the cost really added up.
None of our current dogs (Tango is oldest at 7), has ever needed professional dentistry! At
their annual exams, their vet is almost as delighted as we are when she says – “no dental
needed this year!”