7 Tips For Cleaning Your Dog's Teeth at Home

Golden Retriever with dog toothbrush, product for the dental care of pets


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Golden Retriever with dog toothbrush, product for the dental care of pets on white background

Sweet Muggin'

Like humans, dogs can develop plaque and tartar on their teeth, which can lead to a host of dental issues: gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. If left untreated, these problems can spread to other areas of the body, resulting in more severe health problems and hefty vet bills (a professional teeth cleaning will cost you anywhere from $300 to $700). That's why proper dental care at home is so important. Brushing your dog's teeth, adding dental solution to their water, and providing chew toys can help prevent these issues and improve the overall health and wellbeing of your pooch, all while helping you save money in the long run. 

Related: 13 Free Perks of Owning a Dog

Dental Brushing Dogs Teeth

Brush Those Pearly Whites Often

Have you ever gotten a whiff of your dog's breath and thought, "You're lucky you're cute," because oof. Since dogs rely on sniffing to gather information and explore the territory around them, they are often nose- and mouth-deep in all kinds of nasty things. Experts recommend brushing your dog's teeth at least three times a week — and more if possible — to keep their breath smelling fresh. You can buy a dental kit (complete with a dual-headed toothbrush, toothpaste, and a finger toothbrush for smaller dogs) for less than $7.

Related: How Often Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

Smart dog jack russell terrier holds a blue toothbrush in his mouth on a white background. Oral hygiene of pets

Get Them Into the Habit Early

Training a dog to tolerate teeth brushing at a young age can make the process much easier and more effective in the long run. Like many animals, dogs are more receptive to learning new behaviors and habits during their early developmental stages. By introducing teeth brushing at a young age and making it part of a routine, you can help your pooch become familiar with the process and develop positive associations with teeth brushing — making it less likely that they will resist or become fearful of it in the future. 

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Beagle dog waiting for a treat

Have Lots of Treats Handy

Rewarding your dog with treats and praise before and after teeth brushing can help them associate the activity with a positive experience. Since dogs learn through a process called classical conditioning, this means they associate certain actions or experiences with positive or negative outcomes based on what happens immediately before or after an experience. This positive association can help reinforce their behavior and increase the likelihood that your dog will be more receptive to teeth brushing in the future.

Happy pet dog puppy chewing, eating snack treat

Invest in Dental Chews

Dental treats are specifically designed to help clean your dog's teeth and keep its breath from smelling like a dead animal. The abrasive texture helps scrape away plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth, while some dental treats — such as Greenies — contain ingredients that can help freshen breath by reducing the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Some dental treats are also designed to be long-lasting or require a lot of chewing, helping your pooch stay mentally stimulated and occupied. 

Dog drinking water from bowl at living room

Add Dental Solution to Their Water

Dental water solutions are formulated with ingredients such as chlorhexidine and zinc chloride that can help break down bacteria and prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Incorporating a water additive is easy: Simply add a bit of the solution to your dog's water bowl and it will get consumed as Fido drinks throughout the day. As the owner of a Maltese (they are prone to dental issues), I've found this brand to be pretty effective and affordable. 

Male veterinarian looking at dog's teeth

Use Dental Wipes

If your furry pal is loath to teeth brushing, dental or tooth wipes could be a good solution. Formulated with baking soda and peppermint, dental wipes are made to be rubbed against your dog’s teeth to help remove plaque and tartar. However, while tooth wipes work similarly to toothbrushes, they won't be able to get into all the nooks and crannies that a brush can. Still, they can be a good alternative to keeping your pet's teeth cleaner, and are convenient and easy to use. 

Two dogs eating together from their food bowls

Consider a Food Supplement

Certain food supplements such as PlaqueOff Powder are fortified with enzymes and other ingredients that can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Some supplements contain natural ingredients such as cranberry or kelp that may help promote oral health by reducing inflammation and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria inside the mouth. Note that while food supplements and water additives can be helpful in keeping your dog's teeth cleaner, they should not be used as a complete substitute for regular teeth brushing.