Caring for your dog’s teeth is an important part of caring for them. Like us humans, dogs will have problems with their teeth if they are not cared for properly, this means a daily dental routine just like we have. So what is the best way to clean your dog’s teeth and why is dental health just as important for dog’s as it is for us? One thing that you may have already noticed if they have bad oral hygiene is your dog can end up suffering from bad breath just like humans can, amongst other health issues too.
How to take care of your dog’s teeth
If, you are unsure about what is involved in your dog’s dental routine you can ask your vet to show you how to brush their teeth correctly. Brushing your dog’s teeth properly will help prevent your dog getting gum disease or any of the other issues associated with poor oral hygiene.
What you need
Firstly you need a tooth brush. You will need to spend some time finding the best toothbrush to suit your dog. Some people use a child’s toothbrush, but getting a tooth brush made especially for dogs will help make brushing easier.
Toothbrushes are easily purchased from your vets or a local pet store. You will find there are many variations of toothbrushes and toothpastes available for your dog. So don’t be afraid to ask for help if you aren’t sure what kind to get. You need to make sure that the bristles on the toothbrush you choose are soft so that they don’t damage your dog’s gums. You will also need to make sure you get the right sized brush for your dog’s mouth, so not too big if you have a smaller dog and not too small for a larger dog. Also, make sure that you are comfortable with the handle, so make sure it is big enough for you to comfortably get a grip on.
If your dog doesn’t take to a normal toothbrush you can get one that fits on the end of your finger, I use these with a couple of my rescue dogs that had never had their teeth clean so found it more comfortable for me to just rub their teeth with my finger rather than put a brush into their mouths.
You cannot use human toothpaste on your dog. Most human toothpastes contain fluoride which is poisonous to dogs. You will need to get a high quality toothpaste that has ingredients specially formulated just for dogs. Always check the ingredients in the toothpaste as cheaper brands might use ingredients that could potentially be harmful to your dog, and make them sick. There is a huge choice at most pet store’s so ask for help and read the labels carefully. Our vets also sells dog toothpaste so may be a good idea to check with your vet too.
Getting your dog used to having their teeth brushed
Brushing your dogs’ teeth for the first time can be difficult; especially if they are not used to it. If you have had your dog as a puppy then getting them used to having their teeth brushed from an early age is always the best, but if like me you have taken in an older rescue dog it’s not too late so don’t worry. The tip is to be gentle, and speak to them in a soft calm voice and if at first your dog isn’t comfortable never force them. Just take it slow and keep persevering, and in time they will get used to it.
When cleaning your dog’s teeth start from the back of their mouth and work your way forward in small circular motions. If your dog really doesn’t want to let you brush their teeth with a toothbrush, try rubbing their teeth and mouth gently with a soft towel so that they get used to the sensation of having something as well as your fingers in their mouth. Speak calming and softly; praising your dog to help keep them calm. Keep repeating this process until your dog is used to being touched in and around their mouth and they should then be OK with you brushing their teeth without any hassle or stress.
Most people don’t realize that dental hygiene is just as important for dogs as it is for us humans, and just the same as us, dogs’ teeth can gather plaque after they have eaten. When the plaque builds up it hardens and becomes tartar. If tartar is left to accumulate it can work its way under the gums and cause infections and gum disease. We generally brush our teeth at least twice a day sometimes more, but our dogs cannot do this so we have to do it for them. If you can brush your dog’s teeth daily the same as you do your own you will ensure their teeth last well into their old age, but brushing their teeth at least two to three times a week can keep the buildup of tartar at a minimum.
If, You don’t have the time to brush your dogs’ teeth on a daily basis. You will need to find another way to keep them clean. A dog has a natural tendency to chew which is their own built-in dental care system. Although there is no substitute for brushing your dog’s teeth, giving them a chew or a toy that is designed to clean their teeth will be a good way to keep on top of their oral hygiene in between brushing.
Issues that can evolve from bad oral hygiene
Gingivitis is a gum disease which occurs when gum tissue becomes inflamed. If it remains untreated, gingivitis will lead to periodontitis,and can cause your dog to start losing their teeth.
Periodontitis is an advanced gum disease that attacks not just the gums but also the bones that underlie the gums. It is probably the most common dental problem for dogs.
Because, dogs love to gnaw on things like bones they can develop small fractures of their teeth. When a dog has fractures or broken teeth they can get a disease develop inside the fractures called Endodontic disease.
Endodontic disease infects the pulp on the inside of the tooth, if this pulp dies as a result of the disease it will result in tooth decay which will require extraction or root canal.
These problems can be prevented simply by keeping your dog’s teeth clean, when your dog has clean teeth there will be less bacteria, which means less chance of disease, and helps keep bad breath at bay too.
Prevention is better than cure
The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is true and this is a prime example. Dogs that do not get proper dental care will be at risk to diseases, they can range from a mild case of gingivitis up to a serious infection that could spread into the bloodstream and damage organs.
This can be avoided by caring for your dogs teeth, not only will it save your dog unnecessary pain, but it will also save you the money from costly dental procedures at your vets.
The best way to keep your dog’s teeth clean is by brushing them every day. A buildup of plaque, food and bacteria will cause gum disease over time if left untreated, if you notice a build up of a white coating on the teeth and gums it is a result of bacteria.
Giving your dogs mouth a regular check, you will notice if anything is different, look for broken, chipped or cracked teeth and check the gums are healthy. If you see anything that looks different or you have any concerns, take your dog to your vet as soon as you can.