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Know you should be paying attention to your dog's dental health but (like most of us) find brushing your dog's teeth not so easy to do?
You are not alone! Just about everyone finds brushing their dogs' teeth a challenge to some degree or other. Whether it's remembering to find the couple of minutes it takes to brush your dog's teeth or figuring out how to manage if your dog doesn't love sitting still for teeth brushing, it's very easy for our best dental cleaning intentions to go by the wayside.
But fear not! There are some simple tricks to make brushing your dog's teeth much easier - and even fun! As pet parents, it's important for our our dogs' overall health and comfort that we learn to get consistent with brushing our pet's teeth. Dental disease and tooth decay are not a joke and can lead to many other health problems for your dog, regardless of your dog's age.
Here's how to brush your dog's teeth in 7 simple steps:
But before we dive in...
I've made a super simple video to show you how easy it can be to start brushing your dog's teeth daily. Watch it as I take you through how easy it can be to become a tooth-brushing pro for your dog.
Step 1: Make it a habit - brush your dog's teeth at the same time every day
Easier said than done, but that way, it will become second nature and you won't have to remind yourself every day. Put it in your calendar. Write it on your wall. Post-it note it to your coffee pot. Whatever you need to do to create the habit.
I find a good time to remember to brush my dog's teeth is first thing in the morning, after we go outside and before breakfast. That way we're all brushing our teeth at the same time and the business of the day hasn't gotten in the way.
Step 2: Gather the supplies you'll need to brush your pup's teeth
You'll need a small, soft toothbrush (or cotton gauze to wipe rather than brush) and some homemade 3-ingredient coconut oil dog toothpaste. Here's my super easy recipe that most dogs LOVE.
Step 3: Introduce the toothbrush and dog toothpaste to your dog
Some dogs may take to the dog toothpaste and toothbrush immediately and start licking the toothbrush with gusto. Others may be a little more hesitant. If your dog is hesitant, start by letting your pup smell the toothbrush and toothpaste. Once they're comfortable with that, move on to letting your dog lick the toothpaste off the toothbrush.
Do this a few times before you try to put the brush in his/her mouth.
Step 4: Put the toothbrush in your dog's mouth - starting with those upper back teeth!
With your coconut oil toothpaste on your dog's toothbrush, lift up the side of your dog's mouth and start brushing your dog's upper back teeth along the gum line with your dog's lip raised. Brush down from top to bottom of the tooth using long, one-way downward strokes.
Repeat this process on the other side of your dog's mouth.
Step 5: Brush your dog's front teeth
Gently lift your dog's lip and brush the lower and upper front teeth in a similar fashion as you did with the back teeth, using the same gentle downward one-way strokes from gum line to the bottom of each tooth.
Step 6: Add toothpaste as needed & go bottoms up
Load more small amounts of your dog toothpaste as needed and brush your dog's bottom teeth, this time starting at the gum line and using an upward stroke. Move around the rest of your dog's bottom teeth...
Step 7: End on a good note
End the brushing session on a good note by letting your dog lick the toothbrush (or your fingers) clean. This will help your dog associate something positive with the experience and your dog will be more likely to enjoy dental cleanings.
And you're done!
A few pro tips ...
- Be sure to use dog-specific toothpaste - never use human toothpaste which often contains xylitol and is highly toxic to dogs, in addition to other ingredients not good for your dog's stomach.
- If your dog is fidgety and just not into the whole getting teeth brushed thing, you can start slowly over time by getting your dog comfortable with having his or her mouth handled.
Here's how to use positive reinforcement when brushing a dog's teeth who's just not into it:
Most dogs love the taste of coconut oil, so you can start by letting your dog lick some off your fingers, rubbing some into their gums or onto a few teeth and stopping, then starting again another day. Even if you're only at it for just a few seconds with a finger brush initially, stop whenever your dog is uncomfortable and start fresh another time. (If your dog is new to coconut oil, gradually work on increasing the amount you use... some dogs can get loose stools if too much is used too soon.)
If the toothbrush is too scary, you can progress from using your coconut oil toothpaste on gauze or finger brushes or even just continue to gently rub the toothpaste on your dog's teeth with your finger for a while.
Take it in your dog's time, whatever brushing you can comfortably do is all to the good!
Remember, you're doing this for your dog's health
We all want our dogs to be happy and to live forever, and those are two huge reasons brushing your dogs' teeth is worth it and why it matters so much.
Brushing your dog's teeth is not only important for your dog's oral health but it also significantly impacts their overall health in a multitude of positive ways. And bonus points, the more brushing you as the pet owner can do yourself, the longer you may be able to hold off on a professional dental cleaning!
Teeth brushing can help prevent all too-common pain for your dog
None of us want our dogs to ever suffer pain. Knowing they suffer in silence and tend to hide pain makes it even harder to think they could be hurting in some way that we could have prevented just by brushing daily. Dogs can suffer oral pain, toothaches and periodontal disease, dental and gum disease and even lose teeth (which a large number do) - if their teeth are not cared for properly. Prevention is key when it comes to ensuring this doesn't happen to your dog!
Good dental health could lead to a longer life for your dog
The simple act of keeping your dog's teeth clean can extend their life 3 to 5 years, according to studies. Isn't that what we all want more than anything? I would say that's a resounding yes.
The reason behind it is when bacteria (not the good kind) is allowed to get a foothold in your dog's mouth, it can get into your pup's bloodstream and cause serious heart, as well as kidney and liver disease.
So let's all start daily brushing and keeping our dogs healthy and happy longer!
Next up in Dental Health on Dogly
Now that you've learned how to make your own dog toothpaste and brush your dog's teeth, you’re ready to learn how to tell if dental chews are good for your dog. Continue on to the next guide or hop over to the Dental Health Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion or start any of the other step-by-step guides. And if you ever need more personalized overall wellness help for your dog, please reach out!