Brushing your dog’s teeth is essential to their overall health care. It keeps their breath smelling fresh and helps prevent canine gum disease along with other diseases caused by poor dental health. A buildup of plaque and tartar can lead to a loss of teeth and serious dental conditions that cause painful and dangerous infections. These infections can spread to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Regular dental hygiene protects your dog’s health, happiness, and quality of life.

How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Dog shows a funny face

Your dog’s teeth need regular brushing, just like your own. Ideally, you should brush your pet’s teeth daily. At the least, brushing two to three times per week, combined with a professional dental cleaning yearly, will help prevent severe dental disease. Unfortunately, many pet parents do not brush their pet’s teeth, which can lead to overall poor health and painful dental disease.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Dog holds toothbrush in mouth

Before you brush your dog’s teeth for the first time, it’s essential to introduce the concept to them and allow them to become comfortable with the process. Prepare for the first brushing by following these steps:

  1. Purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs. A finger brush is a good starting brush.
  2. Massage your dog’s lips, teeth, and gums in slow, circular motions a few  times a day. Start with the lips, moving to the teeth and gums when your pet is comfortable enough with the lip massage. This step may take several days or even weeks.
  3. Put a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and let your pet taste it. Reward your pet immediately.
  4. Put a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Reward your pet for licking the toothbrush. Allow time for your pet to become comfortable with the toothbrush before you get into their mouth.
  5. Clean the teeth with small circular brushing motions. Lift the lip and clean outside the teeth and gum line while reassuring your pet with calming words.
  6. Clean the teeth in short bursts, stopping and reassuring your pet in between. Brush for a total of 30 to 60 seconds, keeping the session fun. Reward your pet when you finish.

This process takes weeks or even longer for  your dog to become comfortable with brushing their teeth. Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth with Baking Soda or Coconut Oil.

Baking soda for brush dog's teeth

If your dog doesn’t like the flavor of dog toothpaste, or if you prefer an alternative, you can keep your dog’s teeth in good condition with baking soda. It helps clean off plaque and tartar while killing bacteria and freshening the breath. To use baking soda to clean your dog’s teeth, add just enough water to the baking soda to make a paste. Follow the same process described above to acclimate your dog to teeth cleaning.

Coconut oil is another healthy alternative to toothpaste. To use coconut oil for brushing, combine equal parts melted coconut oil with baking soda to make a paste. Use this toothpaste mixture  to clean your dog’s teeth. You can add a drop of peppermint oil or another flavor to the mix for fresh, minty breath if your dog likes it.

Alternatives to Teeth-Brushing

Labrador chewing bone

Some pets take a long time to become acclimated to teeth-brushing, and a few never become comfortable with the process. If you’re unable to brush your dog’s teeth, these alternatives will help keep your dog’s teeth clean. While these methods are not as beneficial as brushing, they do offer some benefits. Talk to your veterinarian about which alternative approach may be best for your dog:

  • Food and water additives
  • Dental sprays
  • Dog dental chews
  • Bully sticks
  • Tooth wipes

Healthy teeth and gums are vital to your pet’s overall health. Proper dental care is essential for your dog’s well-being.

Yearly Cleaning for Your Dog’s Teeth

Yearly cleaning for dog's teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth is the first step to good dental health. Equally important is an annual cleaning at your veterinarian’s office. This process is usually done under anesthesia for your dog’s comfort and so your veterinarian can reach all the tooth surfaces for a thorough job.

Attempting to clean a dog’s teeth without anesthesia does not allow the technician to reach the entire mouth and possibly leads to missed spots and a poor cleaning. It’s also very uncomfortable and frightening for your pet.

Professional cleaning is recommended every year for most dogs, but your dog may need them more often. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation.

Your vet may begin by taking x-rays to assess the health of the teeth and roots. Professional dental cleanings under anesthesia allow your vet to do a close inspection of the teeth and gums, remove scale, tartar, and plaque from the teeth. A fluoride foam placed on the teeth at the end of the exam protects the dog’s teeth from decay.

After the procedure, your vet begins monitoring your pet’s recovery from anesthesia until your dog is fully awake. Your veterinarian will strive to make the cleaning as comfortable and safe for your pet as possible.

Dental Disease in Dogs Caused by Poor Dental Health

Dental disease in dogs

Pet parents often overlook their pet’s dental health. But, teeth and gum problems can quickly cause infections that lead to other more severe diseases. These serious health conditions can be caused by neglected dental health:

  • Reduced appetite and poor eating habits
  • Heart valve infections
  • Heart disease
  • Blood infections — sepsis
  • Liver infections and abscesses
  • Osteomyelitis and bone infections

The Cost of a Professional Dental Cleaning

A professional dental cleaning can cost between $300 and $700 yearly, depending on your vet and the size or age of the dog. Be prepared for additional costs should the exam reveal problems that need correction. While professional pet dental cleaning is expensive, it’s necessary for your dog’s health.

Pet Health Insurance Helps Cover the Cost of Dental Cleanings

Dog smiling at the camera

One way to help reduce the costs of annual dental exams and cleaning is to purchase a Prudent Pet Insurance plan designed for your pet’s needs. Prudent Pet believes that every pet deserves excellent health care, and they create budget-friendly programs customized to your pet’s needs. An Accident + Illness plan covers annual exams, dental cleanings, heartworm, and flea prevention, as well as accidents and illnesses for your pet.

Dog health insurance allows you to concentrate on getting your pet the best treatments without having to worry about costs or whether you can afford the treatment. Take a few minutes today to get a quote on health insurance for your pet.

A recent study by the American Animal Health Association found that most pet owners don’t provide primary dental care for their beloved pets. This is supported by the fact that 80% of dogs have significant oral disease by three years of age, and 75% of middle-aged dogs have irreversible gum disease.

Many dog parents are unaware of their dog’s oral health needs and believe that tooth brushing is too difficult for home care. However, if you take the time to acclimate your dog, teeth brushing can be a happy and healthy part of your pet’s daily routine.