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5 Tips to Keep Your Dog's Teeth Clean | BetterVet

Did you know that without treatment most dogs have some degree of dental disease by the age of three? For this reason, dog dental care needs to be part of your daily care routine for your dog. 

Dental disease can creep up slowly over time if we do not use preventative dental care for our dogs. Plaque and tartar build up over time, causing periodontal disease, which causes pain, infection, and tooth decay. Thankfully, periodontal disease is a condition that pet parents can tackle head-on with a combination of in-home dental checkups and professional cleaning. 

Some signs of dental disease are: 

  • Smelly breath 
  • Brown, grey, or yellow material on the teeth
  • Bleeding gums 
  • Reduced or no appetite 
  • Eating slowly or only on one side of the mouth
  • Broken or discolored teeth

Preventative Measures 

So, how can we help our dogs maintain a healthy smile? There are several things you can do at home to keep your dog's dental health in good shape. You can do all or just a few of the suggestions below, depending on what works for you and your dog.


Tooth Brushing 

Tooth brushing is a great first line of defense for your dog’s dental health. Brushing a few times a week, or daily if your dog will let you, can disrupt the film of bacteria responsible for periodontal disease on your dog’s teeth. This slows down the rate of plaque and tartar buildup. Our top tip for toothbrushing is to use pet-specific toothpaste, as toothpaste for people can contain toxic ingredients for dogs. Toothpaste for dogs comes in delicious dog flavors like poultry, peanut butter, or malt to help convince your dog tooth brushing is fun. Your toothbrush or finger brush should be made for dogs, but a child’s toothbrush can work too. Just like people, you will need to change your dog’s toothbrush regularly, about once every 2 months. 

When teaching your dog to enjoy toothbrushing, start small. Let your dog lick the toothpaste off your finger, and then gradually work up to touching your dog’s teeth with the toothpaste. If your dog is comfortable with this step, you can then introduce the toothbrush. Start small brushing for only a few seconds a day and gradually build up to the point where you can brush all your teeth. You only need to brush the outside surfaces of your dog's teeth. There is no need to rinse the toothpaste away once you have finished brushing. 

If you have a puppy, you can start teaching toothbrushing on their deciduous (baby) teeth, and by the time their adult teeth grow through they will have learned to love it.



Mouthwashes are super easy to use, simply add them to fresh drinking water daily. Mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine, a weak antiseptic that reduces bacteria in the mouth. It has the added benefit of making their breath smell fresher! Always use mouthwash for dogs, as human mouthwash can contain toxic ingredients.


Dental Treats 

Who would have thought a treat could benefit your dog’s dental health? Some dental treats, particularly those approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council help keep your dog’s teeth clean. If you are using dental treats to keep their teeth clean, remember to reduce the amount of food they are having overall to stop them from putting on a few extra pounds. Dental treats come in a wide range of flavors, shapes, and sizes, so experiment and see what your dog enjoys most.


Dental Care Dry Food

Dental formula dry food is kibble that acts like chewing gum to help clean the teeth. These formulas  are particularly good at helping to keep the big back premolar and molar teeth healthy. You can feed a dental care diet along with other foods, or as a complete diet on its own. When choosing a dental care formula, we recommend the diets on this list.


Professional Cleaning 

A yearly dental check-up and teeth cleaning with a veterinarian are key to keeping your dog’s mouth healthy. Your veterinarian will probe and examine all the teeth under general anesthesia and take x-rays of the teeth. Using an ultrasonic scaler, tartar and plaque will be removed and the teeth polished to finish. If any teeth are diseased, your vet can either treat or remove the diseased teeth. 

Dog dental care is important and easy to do. Most dogs enjoy the attention during toothbrushing and the tasty treats and food simple changes that can improve dental health. By using our tips and sticking to a routine, you can keep your dog’s teeth healthy and strong. If you are unsure if a dental product would be helpful, or want advice on dog dental health, our mobile veterinarians are here to help. Beware of the risks of an anesthesia-free dental cleaning and always use a licensed veterinarian for the safest, most effective treatment.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are anesthetic-free dental cleanings safe? 

We do not recommend anesthetic-free dental cleanings as it would cause too much stress for the pet. Always use a veterinarian for dental checkups and teeth cleaning appointments. In addition, they do not address any disease under the gumline.


How much does dog dental care cost? 

Professional cleaning with a veterinarian will vary based on your location and whether your dog needs additional dental work beyond cleaning. Toothbrushing, dental chews, and mouthwashes are relatively inexpensive and can be used in between professional cleans to keep up your dog’s dental health.


Does rawhide keep teeth clean?

Rawhide chews are good at making contact with tooth surfaces, so they do help to mechanically clean teeth. However, rawhide chews can cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract when eaten, so other dental chews are a better choice for this reason.


Are bones good for dog teeth? 

Bones are hard and can cause tooth fractures. If wanting to use a more tooth-friendly approach, try a large thick rope toy to chew on for a safer option.


Can I give my dog chewing gum?

Chewing gum has been shown to help fight dental disease in people but should not be given to dogs. Chewing gum often contains toxic ingredients, and if swallowed can cause a risk of a blockage in the digestive system.