Dental Care Tips for Dogs

Brush Up!
By The Bark Editors, March 2013, Updated January 2022

February is National Pet Dental Health month— do you know where your dog’s toothbrush is? If not, put one on your list of things to pick up the next time you’re out, along with a tube of made-for-dogs toothpaste (human brands can upset a dog’s stomach, among other things) or even just baking soda.

Daily brushing is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your dog’s overall health. Granted, few dogs will step up to the bathroom sink and let you give their teeth a good scrubbing, but with patience and a few positive-reinforcement techniques, while brushing can help your dog be more cooperative.

When your dog goes in for their annual examination, your vet will check out their teeth and gums and may recommend a thorough cleaning, which requires anesthesia. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning is also an option, though it too is best performed in the vet’s office; it has its advantages, but it’s not for all dogs, and ultimately, doesn’t result in as good cleaning as one performed under anesthesia.

When all is said and done, the few seconds a day it takes to whisk a brush across your dog’s pearly whites will pay off in better health, not to mention sweeter kisses.

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Facts on Dog Teeth and Oral Health:

42 Teeth: No matter how big or small your dog is, they have 42 teeth. If they’re one of the toy or short-nosed breeds, those teeth are likely to be crowded, which means greater potential for developing dental problems.

80 Percent: According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, roughly 80 percent of all dogs over the age of three have some degree of dental disease.

Periodontal Disease: Dogs’ teeth are awash in bacteria-rich plaque, which, when combined with minerals in the saliva, hardens into tartar (or calculus) that traps even more bacteria. Left unattended, your dog’s gums can become inflamed, resulting in gingivitis and ultimately, periodontal disease.

Dental Damage: Oral bacteria can enter your dog’s bloodstream and cause damage to their heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs.

Build up: Most plaque buildup occurs on the cheek side of your dog’s teeth, so when brushing, concentrate your efforts there. And you need to be quick— dogs have limited patience with this kind of personal-hygiene exercise.

Bones: When used with supervision, rawhide, raw bones, special chews, dental bones and toys, and other healthy products that work by scraping off plaque (but not tartar) can also help, although they shouldn’t be relied upon to do the whole job.

Photo: Jade87 / Pixabay