How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

The right way
By Cheryl Roth, Trish Phillips ASVDT, January 2011, Updated November 2020
Brushing dog's teeth

There’s no time like the present to have your veterinarian examine your dog’s teeth, and then begin a brushing routine at home. Daily brushing boosts and supports dogs’ well-being and general health by reducing bacteria that may enter the stomach and bloodstream. Trying to brush an unhealthy mouth is no fun for you or your dog, however. According to AAHA Dental Care Guidelines, the only way to know for sure that your pup’s mouth is healthy is through dental x-rays. Once your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead, it’s time to start brushing.

1. Use a pet-formulated toothpaste in a flavor your dog likes. Do not use human toothpaste, as the detergents and high fluoride levels may cause severe tummy distress.

2. Use any soft-bristled toothbrush. If your dog is small, try a child’s toothbrush. Some pet owners like to use angled pet toothbrushes or finger-cap brushes.

3. If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth, introduce brushing slowly. Use lots of praise for small advancements in the process.


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4. Start by letting your dog lick a pea-size amount of toothpaste off your finger. If you’ve found a flavor he likes, he’ll consider it a special treat.

5. Next, rub some toothpaste onto the outer surfaces of his upper and lower teeth. (Do not try to clean the inner tooth surfaces—leave that to the veterinary professionals.)

6. After a few days, put a pea-sized amount of pet toothpaste on his toothbrush and let him lick it off.

7. The goal is to brush the upper and lower teeth on both sides of the mouth for a full minute, or the length of a television commercial.

Perhaps the most important point: “Dog breath” implies significant dental issues. If your dog’s breath is nasty, or if he resists brushing, please consult your veterinarian for a thorough dental check-up, including x-rays and professional cleaning under anesthesia. For more information, see the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines at

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 58: Feb/Mar 2010

Cheryl Roth, DVM, DAAPM, and Trish Phillips, ASVDT, are affiliated with Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Bloomington, Minn.