How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

If your dog can brush his own teeth, you can stop reading this article and start posting the video to YouTube. For the rest of us, we have to use a canine toothbrush and a little strategy. The best brush to use is double-headed with the brushes at a 45 degree angle to clean below the gumline, like those offered by companies like Petosan.

Your dog might not go for the tooth brushing at first, but hopefully, you can make it a reasonably pleasant experience for both of you. Try and choose a time when your dog has had a decent amount of exercise, so he’s more inclined to sit still for the procedure. Don’t overdo it the first few times. Start slowly and quit if your dog gets agitated, even if you don’t brush the whole mouth. You can increase the time every day as he gets used to it. Also, make sure to speak soothingly and pleasantly during the brushing and reward your dog with a treat afterwards. Before too long, your dog should start looking forward to the event.

Start Early With Your Dog as a Puppy!

Grown dogs can learn to become comfortable with dog teeth cleaning, but make things easier for yourself by working with your dog as a puppy.

How to Pick the Right Tooth Paste for Your Dog

This is very important. Do NOT use regular human toothpaste for your dog. Most human toothpastes include fluoride, which is extremely poisonous to dogs. You can find toothpaste formulated for dogs at most good pet stores.

Dry Food is Better Than Soft Food

If the tooth brushing ends in blood, sweat, or tears, there are still choices you can make to help improve your dog’s oral health. Crunchy kibble is better for your dog’s teeth than soft food, as soft food is more likely to stick to the teeth and cause decay.

Chew Bones and Chew Toys to Clean Teeth

There are many synthetic bones and chew toys that are specially designed to strengthen your dog’s gums and teeth. Just make sure you’re providing safe objects for your dog to chew on. Hard objects can cause broken teeth.

Giving your dog a good bone to chew on can help get rid of build up and keep teeth strong, but imagine a human who only chews gum and uses mouth rinse. That’s not an effective means of ensuring good dental hygiene and overall health. The same is true for your dog.

When to See a Veterinarian

Whether you brush your dog’s teeth or not, you should have a look inside his mouth every week or so. If you notice any of these signs of dental problems, then take your dog to the vet:

  • Bad breath

  • Change in eating or dog chewing habits

  • Pawing at the face or mouth

  • Depression

  • Excessive drooling

  • Misaligned or missing teeth

  • Discolored, broken, missing or crooked teeth

  • Red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums

  • Yellowish-brown tartar crust along the gum line

  • Bumps or growths within the mouth

How Often to See a Vet?

Even with healthy teeth, just like you, your dog should have his teeth checked by a professional every six to twelve months. Your vet should include a dental examination with a normal checkup, but ask for it if they don’t.

Dental care can be a hassle for humans and dogs, but proper maintenance can be a money saver in the long run and even a lifesaver. Letting it go can lead to costly and often painful vet visits down the road. Many dogs have to be given anesthesia to have their teeth and gums cleaned if the buildup is bad enough. Keep your dog’s mouth clean though, and you’ll both be smiling!

How often do you brush your dog’s teeth?

It is important to realize that your dog will never tell you when it is experiencing dental pain. All dogs will endure some level of dental disease and dental pain during their lives. The best way to minimize these issues is for your dog is to start out with a great dental health routine at home. This should be supplemented with regular dental cleanings performed by veterinary professionals (a veterinarian and veterinary nurse to aid in the dental cleaning and patient care during the procedure).

Proper dental care at home consists of daily brushing. Just as with humans, dogs need the plaque and biofilm removed from their teeth on a daily basis to avoid dental disease. The vast majority of dogs will accept daily brushing by their owners. We are here to teach you how to brush your dog's teeth and provide you with the best brush and dental paste according to your dog's size and flavor preference. It can be a bonding experience for owners to brush their dog's teeth and the dog may come to really enjoy the process. However, not every dog will tolerate and not every person is willing or able to brush their dog's teeth, we can work with you to find the next best solution for home care.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) lists many dog diets and treats that can be helpful if your dog will not tolerate brushing (vohc.org). These approved diets and treats provide some supplemental dental care. However, just as humans require regular dental care to maintain proper dental health, it takes more than a chew toy to properly care for your canine companion's mouth, gums and teeth.

During your regular veterinary visits, we will examine your dog's teeth and will show you the obvious lesions that need to be addressed. We are most concerned with signs of gingivitis, broken teeth, periodontal disease and other painful dental and oral lesions. Our doctors may recommend a veterinarian-supervised dental cleaning.

Dog Bad Breath, A Sign Of Things To Come

Some people think that dog bad breath is a trait inherent to the canine species. This is a myth that dogs themselves have contributed to over the years through behaviors including drinking from the toilet, eating feces, and self-grooming habits. However, these practices alone do not account for dog bad breath. Dog bad breath is generally a result of the bacteria that live in the infected gum and dental tissue in your dog's mouth. This odor is a sign of progressive dental disease. It will not get better without a thorough veterinary dental cleaning and a proper home care plan.

Signs And Symptoms Of Dog Dental Issues

The best way to prevent dog dental issues is to be proactive. Part of this process includes periodic dog teeth cleaning, but the other part requires vigilance on your part as the dog's owner. If your dog displays any of the following symptoms, you should schedule a veterinary appointment ASAP:

  • Bad breath / Halitosis

  • Problems eating, loss of appetite (only in the most severe cases)

  • Red, swollen, bleeding gums (usually the molars in the back of the mouth)

  • Loose, broken, missing teeth

  • Blood in saliva or nasal discharge

  • Lesions in mouth

Should you notice any of these symptoms, schedule a veterinary appointment right away.

What A Veterinarian Is Looking For During A Dog Dentistry Examination

During an oral exam, a veterinarian looks for any signs of abnormality or ill health. Veterinarians are trained to spot many different symptoms, including:

  • Overbite, underbite, malocclusion, teeth that don't fit together

  • Gingivitis and periodontal disease

  • Facial swelling

  • Tartar buildup

  • Fractured or broken teeth

  • Cavities

  • Abscesses

Our veterinarians will develop a customized plan of prevention or treatment based on what is found during the doggie dental exam at your next visit.

Dog Dental Treatments

The dog dental care services provided here at Sylvan Veterinary Hospital begins with an examination by one of our veterinarians. If dental issues are found in your dog's mouth, our veterinarian will explain the situation to you and recommend the appropriate dental procedure. During this procedure, once your dog is sedated, our veterinarians are able to conduct a more thorough exam including visualizing the entire oral cavity and throat area, probing gingival pockets to assess periodontal disease and dental x-rays. It is important to remember that half of the tooth is under the gum line. Therefore, it is imperative that x-rays are performed to complete assessment of the tooth. Quite often a tooth may look completely normal but the roots are abscessed and a great source of pain for your dog. We utilize all the tools necessary to make sure your dog is completely free of dental disease and pain.

Our veterinarians use a comprehensive 6-Step protocol when performing a standard dog dental treatment. This protocol can be amended depending upon factors including preexisting medical conditions, or based on information gleaned during the examination itself. However, for reference, our dog dental treatment protocol includes:

  1. General anesthesia, which is necessary in all cases for us to do a thorough dental examination and professional cleaning. We use only the safest anesthesia protocols and human quality products. Your dog will be continually monitored during the entire procedure and post procedure for the safest and most comfortable experience.

  2. A complete dental exam will be performed before we begin any dental procedure. Dental radiographs are taken at this time. Dental radiology allows our veterinarians to view the internal anatomy of the teeth including the roots and surrounding bone. A thorough dental chart is used to record the dental health of your pet, and any procedures done during the dental cleaning.

  3. Ultrasonic and hand scaling to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. A thorough scaling below the gum line is critical to the success of any dental cleaning, as this is where illness-causing bacteria hide.

  4. Polishing to smooth the surface of the teeth after scaling, making them resistant to additional plaque formation.

  5. Flushing to remove dislodged tartar, plaque and bacteria from the mouth.

  6. If it is determined that an infected tooth requires extraction, or there is a problem with the gums that must be addressed, then and only then will oral surgery be recommended.

Oral Surgery For Dogs

If oral surgery is necessary, it can provide your canine companion with a new lease on life. In these cases, your dog is dealing with significant pain and is compensating for it in a variety of ways. Our veterinary staff is capable of resolving a variety of oral maladies, including:

  • Gingival surgery - including tumor removal and removal of excessive gum tissue secondary to periodontal disease

  • Extensive extractions of impacted or damaged teeth

  • Oral tumor removal

Our dog dental facility allows our veterinarians to precisely perform whatever oral surgical procedure is necessary, in order to help your canine companion live, or regain a healthy and happy quality of life.

The Harsh Reality Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs

Periodontal disease in dogs is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult canines. By three years of age, most dogs have some evidence of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, other than bad breath, there are few signs of periodontal disease in dogs evident to dog owners and professional diagnosis often comes too late to prevent extensive damage. Periodontal disease in dogs, if left untreated, will lead to infected, nonviable teeth and significant dental pain.

However, we cannot overstate the fact that periodontal disease in dogs is fully preventable. The way to successfully do so is to schedule annual dental exams and teeth cleaning appointments with your veterinary dog dentist. By doing so, you are ensuring that your canine companion remains at a low risk for developing periodontal disease.

How To Schedule Your Dog's Dental Appointment

Scheduling an appointment with one of our veterinarians is as easy as picking up the phone, or sending us an email. Our veterinary staff is here to help make your dog's dentistry appointment easy for you, while making it as painless and pleasant as possible for your canine companion.

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