Dog Dental Care: Ins, Outs, Hows & Whys

by Mary Haight on February 26, 2016

Dog Dental Care

(Photo by Rebekah Pavlovic, Flickr)

Dog dental care is a major factor in the continued health and longevity of your dog. I’m not overstating the facts.

Bacteria from bad teeth cause damage to kidneys, lungs, and in particular heart valve damage. So when Tashi was checked in the Spring of last year and a large build-up of plaque was found on his upper back molars, I was more than a little concerned.

He’s over 16 years old, so really – anesthesia is not an option.

Before I tell you what I did that worked for my dog, I want to share with you some facts about mouth health, bust a myth, offer best options for caring for your dog’s teeth, and 3 simple steps on how to brush your dog’s teeth, all vet-approved of course!

What You Need to Know

We learned the following in a podcast with Dr Apryl Steele:

There were no standard guidelines set by AVMA on performance of dental procedures until the 2014. Dental care was different depending on what region of country you lived in, and could vary from practice to practice in any given area. Now that’s changed.

  • Radiographs are now required on any dog being readied for dental care according to AAHA regulations. They are inexpensive and vital to finding cracked teeth and root problems like abscesses you will never know your dog has. Yes, they are that good at hiding pain.
  • Myth buster – The ultrasound teeth cleaning services offered by groomers, for example, are not actually cleaning the teeth, it’s a cosmetic procedure. All the bacteria sitting under the gumline is still there, and the procedure does not reach the standard as a preventive to dental disease.
  • Checking Alignment of teeth in puppies is a great time to affect future health. If some teeth are in abnormal locations, it’s a good idea to remove them early for a healthy mouth.

Brushing is most effective…chews treats, dental diets, solutions in their water are options. If you have dog with a predisposition to dental problems, you have all these tools are available to help you.

Dog Dental Care Best Practices at Home

Dr Steele said over 90% of plaque accumulates on the outside surface of the teeth – skip the inside. You don’t have to do two minutes, as with your own teeth. Biofilm, a highly organized bacterial colony, builds up on the surface. If you just disrupt that by brushing the teeth, the saliva will wash it away. Brush in an out on each quadrant, and the saliva of the dog will wash it away.

Avoiding disease and pain is the focus.

dog dental care

Photo: Tom Bjornstad, Flickr (See below for full credit)

Here are your 3 easy steps to brushing your dog’s teeth with gauze or a toothbrush meant for dogs (and Canine toothpaste to go with it).

  • Don’t force the mouth open at all, just lift the lips (check the photo above)
  • Brush the surface on one side top and then bottom, same for the other side, then the front teeth.
  • Brush across the teeth, back to front, in and out, not up and down. Get the gum line.

Make it a fun-filled exercise. I’m laughing here a little, but seriously, payment is due! Rewarding with something special afterwards will make the next session much easier on you both.

Note: You must condition your dog to accept your handling his mouth and lips before you try sticking your finger or a brush in there. (Those fingers are pretty useful and you’d miss them, I’m sure…)

When you’re in your dog’s mouth every day, you have the opportunity to catch problems fast.

You’ll learn what “normal” looks like, the tongue, the roof of the mouth, the color of the gums. And what it smells like. Smell is often the first sign of a problem. Prevention works.

And then they start getting older, you’re told everything is fine and the teeth aren’t bad, but suddenly at a ripe old age, a problem comes up. Back to Tashi’s dental care story…

What Worked for My Senior Dog’s Teeth

The vet said the plaque felt soft, so I might be able to work on it every day and remove some if not all of it.

When I got home I remembered a product from Ark Naturals, a brushless chew that cleans plaque, tartar, and bacteria.

Carol Bryant and I had put together a video on these chews some years ago on Animal Cafe. (Let me state here this is not a sponsored post, nor am I an affiliate.) I ordered it online.

After the first couple of days I didn’t notice any great change in those two back teeth. I checked the instructions and for stubborn plaque you can freeze the chew.

I did and crossed my fingers, hoping nothing horrible would happen to his teeth. Shih Tzus are not known for having great teeth. It took him much longer to get through the frozen chew.

A giant piece of plaque popped out of his mouth…I panicked a bit and stared at it hoping none of the tooth was embedded there. I checked his mouth and gum line for any damage and we seemed to have made a clean getaway. I was doing a happy dance — this was dog dental care made easy!

The next day, the other molar’s plaque came off. You may not get the same results, but I am so thankful there are products that can help when there are no advisable alternatives.

Do you brush your dog’s teeth? After all the posts you’ve probably seen this month on dental care, do you think you’re going to try it? What (hopefully successful) stories can you share about your dog’s dental health?

 

Top Photo Source: By Rebekah Pavlovic – originally posted to Flickr as Those a rawfed teeth, baby., CC BY-SA 2.0,

Second Photo Source: By Tom Bjornstad “Azawakh K9“. (via Wikimedia Commons)

42 comments
zoepheedogs1
zoepheedogs1

Great post! Dental care is so important! I brush my dogs teeth every day and give them lots of chews!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@zoepheedogs1 I like the idea of chews instead of treats. I use carrots and apple for treats, rarely using commercial products. I was so glad I remembered Ark Naturals!

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DawgBlogger
DawgBlogger

It doesn't really make sense to do dental without radiographs. Most of the trouble is under the surface where the eye will never see it.

CathyArmato
CathyArmato

I've tried to brush my dogs' teeth, still working on it! I use dental chews & have their teeth cleaned at the groomer, which isn't a full cleaning but definitely helps. Great results with the chews you discuss here. Great alternative.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@CathyArmato Be aware to tell the groomer not to use mental implements to scrape your dog's teeth! It leaves grooves in the teeth making it easier for bacteria to grow and tartar to form. With a dental procedure, they buff out those scrapes so this does not occur. Thanks for stopping by and good for you that you're still trying to get those teeth brushed at home =)

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Sadie_and_Co
Sadie_and_Co

Good to know we can 'skip' the inside (most difficult to access)!

OhMyShihTzu
OhMyShihTzu

Our girls get their teeth brushed regularly, and this year 2 will be having trips to the vet for cleaning :)

Sweet Purrfections
Sweet Purrfections

I know I should brush Truffle and Brulee's teeth, but haven't gotten the courage to try it yet.  Your post has motivated me!

thedogtraininglady
thedogtraininglady

Wow, awesome post.  I got a laugh out of it too.  I am so glad you mentioned senior dogs here.  I really appreciate the list of all the tools you can use.  How informative in HOW to brush your dogs teeth too.  We as hoomans learn "circles small - gums and all" - dogs are different.  Thanks so much for sharing this post and video.  I'll be sure to share as I know this will help a lot of pet parents.


Thanks for sharing!

ChroniclesCardi
ChroniclesCardi

Well, interesting that the inside of the teeth don't get as much plaque. I've noticed some darkening along both my corgi's lower teeth (on the inside only) and mentioned on another blog, just now, that I need to pay more attention to that area (with my finger and some doggy toothpaste). Maybe it's just normal discoloration with age? I need to ask my vet next time they go in for a check-up (late spring). We are fans of bully sticks and raw marrow bones for scraping teeth, but I don't give them every day (too much protien/calories). I really need to get better with the brushing. 


MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@ChroniclesCardi That's interesting, Elizabeth -- discoloration can result from heavy antibiotic use, but I would think discoloration from age would be somewhat more uniform, not concentrated, especially at the base of the teeth. I could be wrong ;) It may be time for a professional cleaning, but I can't recall if your corgis are young enough to be reasonably comfortable with anesthetizing. I hope you mention what you find out at the vet's -- I'd be interested! Thanks for adding to the conversation =)

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markandjenna01
markandjenna01

Took me a while, but my huskies dont mind having their teeth brushed too much anymore. :)

ComeWagAlong
ComeWagAlong

I've been slacking on the brushing...gotta get back to it...very important. Great post!

Denise Gruzensky
Denise Gruzensky

I've just went to Amazon Smile and placed the Ark Naturals chews in my basket.  I've already commented on several posts and written one as well about how Shasta feels about having his mouth touched.  Since we rescued him 2 years ago and he is a senior dog I don't think that will change, though he does accept "lovin" touches a bit better now.  I'm going to add the chews to his weekly use of PetSafe's bristle bone!  Thank you!!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@Denise Gruzensky Fabulous -- I hope you love them!! Yes, it can take a very long time to turn around a rescue, and sometimes it can't be done. That's why I love these alternatives =) Thanks for stopping by and adding your two cents!

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RosaDoodle1
RosaDoodle1

Keira hates it, she is my senior and I should of started when she was a pup. Rosa is much more tolerant of brushing. 

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@RosaDoodle1 I know what you mean about starting earlier with brushing dog's teeth, but when we know better, we do better! That's what I tell myself to stave off the guilt... Thanks for the visit =) 

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christycaplan
christycaplan

The  podcast with Dr Apryl Steele is fantastic. What a great resource! We don't brush as much as we should as it becomes a big fight with the old doxie but we do have dental checks twice a year with our vet and regular dental cleanings!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@christycaplan Thanks so much, Christy! We had a whole series of podcasts on preventive care and I'm so proud of the information we were able to deliver to pet parents. Dr Apryl was so great to work with, so impressive in her command of each topic and so down to earth. Glad you became a fan of hers, too, LOL! Sounds like you're all set -- twice a year checks are the just the best way to go, especially when you have an elder statesdog in the house =)

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mk_clinton
mk_clinton

I have been pretty good at keeping the boys teeth brushed and since Bentley loves getting his brushed, it makes life easier. BOL!

pawesomecats
pawesomecats

Dental care is such an important part of a preventative health care routine - we're taking small steps with cleaning the cat's teeth although haven't got her used to full-on brushing yet. 

dailydogtag
dailydogtag

I give my dogs dental treats, but I guess I need to do more.  Thanks for the tip about lifting their lips, I don't think I would have figured that out on my own!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@dailydogtag Good, glad to be of help! It can be difficult if unsure on some of the details of brushing, especially if you're doing the job alone =) I love that it only takes a minute or so to get the job done, and with treats after every successful attempt, pulling away and other fractious behavior should lessen...thanks for stopping by! 

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mattiedog
mattiedog

Shih Tzu's are notorious for bad teeth, we brush our pups teeth every day and give them the brushless teeth cleaners you mentioned! Great post - thank you!

tenaciouslittleterrier
tenaciouslittleterrier

Mr. N had a dental last year and I brush his teeth every day. Small dogs have such bad teeth! 

talenthounds
talenthounds

We posted about dental health today too as I was checking Kilo's teeth. He hates brushing and the vet so I rub my fingers over in small doses each day and give him kibble, bullies and chews. He seems good.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@talenthounds That's great that you interrupt those bacterial colonies Dr Steele talked about by rubbing your fingers over Kilo's teeth every day. You could use a piece of gauze or washcloth to better effect -- I know anything klunky can make the difference between cooperation and refusal, but gauze is pretty thin so that might work best in your case. It does in mine. It's the rough surface of that gauze that provides enough of an abrasive to break up the bacteria. Thanks for adding to the conversation =)

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Ruth and Layla
Ruth and Layla

I give Layla bones plus I put Tropic Clean in her water and its working great,

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@Ruth and Layla Tashi's upper molars are hard to get to and the plaque formed a coating over the entire outside surface of the tooth, mimicking the look of a tooth. A nasty surprise to be sure, but a happy ending. It's great to have all these products to help combat this problem! Thanks for stopping by =)

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