A guide to brushing your dog’s teeth

dog brushing teeth

We know how important it is to brush our own teeth everyday, so it makes sense that your dog’s teeth need regular brushing to maintain their dental health, too. In fact, 80% of dogs show signs of dental disease by the time they’re only 3 years old, so it’s key to look after their teeth before more serious problems arise.

Why is brushing your dog’s teeth important?

There’s more than just a smile at stake when it comes to keeping your dog’s teeth in good condition. Regular brushing removes plaque, which may have formed in their mouth after eating. This helps to prevent calculus build-up that causes gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, so regular brushing will keep the risk of disease at bay. Your dog’s oral health also affects their whole body, not just their teeth. Mouth bacteria can travel through your dog’s bloodstream and eventually affect their vital organs. Certain breeds, especially smaller dogs like chihuahuas, are more susceptible to dental disease as they have more teeth crowded into their mouth, so dental care is especially important for them.

Which toothpaste is safe for dogs?

First things first – dogs need their own specially made toothpaste. Not only does dog toothpaste taste better for your pooch -we’re talking chicken and beef flavour – but human toothpaste contains ingredients that need to be spat out, something that your pup doesn’t know how to do! Be sure to choose an enzyme-based toothpaste, being mindful of any ingredients that your pet reacts to.

dog brushing teeth

How to brush your dog’s teeth

Our in-house Integrative Vet, Dr. Matthew Muir, recommends brushing everyday, or at least 3 times a week in order to keep your dog’s chompers fresh and sparkling clean.  Here’s his step-by-step guide to successful dog teeth cleaning:

  1. Choose a quiet time and place where both you and your dog are relaxed and won’t be rushing. Dr. Matthew Muir is a huge advocate of Tellington TTOUCH Massage, where experiences like teeth brushing can be a chance to bond with your dog and get them seeing their dental sessions as pamper time and something to look forward to.
  2. If your dog is small enough, hold them in your lap, otherwise have your dog sit next to you in a spot that’s comfortable for the both of you.  
  3. Slowly get your dog used to you being near their mouth. You can start by gently rubbing a finger over their mouth and teeth in short bursts until they’re used to the contact.

    If you’re having trouble acclimating them to your touch, try dipping your finger in some beef broth, so they have a positive association with the experience. Be aware though, if your dog has any history of aggression, you should always seek veterinary advice and ideally, a veterinary behaviourist before attempting this. We don’t want any nasty accidents!
  4. Next, try covering your finger with gauze or a soft cloth to get your dog used to a texture that is similar to that of a toothbrush.
  5. Then, add a little of the toothpaste to your finger or the cloth to help your pup get used to the taste.
  6. Once you and your dog are ready, you can begin using a toothbrush with the toothpaste, starting with the front teeth and slowly working your way back as your dog gets more comfortable.
  7. And finally – positive reinforcement! Encourage your dog and reward good behaviour, this will help to make teeth cleaning fun and not a scary experience for your dog.

What if your dog refuses to have their teeth brushed?

If you’ve tried all of the steps above but still aren’t having any luck getting your dog to cooperate, it may be time to speak with your vet or a behaviourist, who can give you more specific advice.

What else can you do to improve your dog’s dental health?

Introducing chewing aids, like preservative-free pizzle sticks or kelp supplements will help to keep your dog’s teeth clean and their breath fresh. Dr. Matthew Muir prefers these to Nylabones or deer antlers, which have a risk of fracturing your dog’s teeth.

dog brushing teeth

How your dog’s diet can affect their teeth

The very best thing you can do for your pupper’s oral health is to combine regular brushing and chewing aids or bones with complete and balanced fresh food

Kibble isn’t the answer here! Because kibble is hard, you may think that it’s good for your dog’s teeth, but this just isn’t the case. The high carbohydrate levels in kibble quickly form a film over your pup’s teeth, which eventually converts to sugar and causes plaque. Saying that kibble cleans teeth is like saying that crackers clean our teeth! 

Scientific evidence has debunked the idea that the crunch in kibble is good for teeth. The only varieties can may help your dog’s oral health are prescription-based, which contain specialised fibres. Dr. Matthew Muir finds that whilst these products can help with teeth, they are not always associated with holistic health for the dog due to their high levels of Omega 6s and low Omega 3 content and glycemic load.

Lyka: great for your pup, teeth to toe

Lyka’s recipes are low in carbohydrates, which means there is less plaque build-up. So, not only are our recipes food tasty, but it also helps to promote natural production of saliva, which is rich in enzymes and antimicrobial agents. In addition, our recipes are rich in Ascophyllum nodosum, a kelp, which science shows us helps to improve the saliva’s ability to fight off bacteria. Start your pup’s good dental health journey and order a Starter Box today!