Many pet caregivers have recently agreed that dental care is important for their dogs, but have expressed frustration with attempts to brush their teeth. Although brushing your dog’s teeth is a simple procedure, it is often not easy to do. Many dogs resist having a plastic thing with a weird-smelling paste stuck in their mouths, so there is more to the process than “open mouth, brush teeth.” It requires patient, positive training to perform this simple procedure, so why bother? There are numerous reasons to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis:
- It is definitely the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease.
- Gum infections from lack of regular brushing can spread to vital organs and cause damage.
- Regular brushing will help decrease the number of times your dog will need to be anesthetized for a professional cleaning. (Even with regular brushing, dogs still need to have their mouth and teeth checked at every annual exam to determine when professional care is needed)
- It will save his teeth, and also save on expense. Frequent professional cleaning is costly.
- Brushing keeps breath smelling fresher.
- Your dog will live a longer, healthier life.
Dental disease is a very common condition, and dogs may suffer in silence even when they have painful periodontal inflammation, so if you have not practiced home dental care, before you bring out the doggie toothbrush, a professional vet dental exam, and a dental cleaning are in order. Brushing the teeth of a dog with gum disease or tooth fractures will cause more pain, and you don’t want her to associate brushing with pain. Convincing a dog that teeth brushing is for his own good isn’t easy, but with persistence and patience it is possible.
These tips may make the process easier:
- Find a quiet location and a convenient time when both you and your dog are relaxed. If you are stressed, he will definitely be tense.
- Introduce her to the new experience of having her mouth handled and teeth cleaned. Talk to her while you stroke around her mouth. Getting her comfortable with having her mouth handled is half the battle.
- When he is comfortable with having his mouth touched, it’s time to move on to his teeth, but rather than beginning with a brush, it is easier to begin with gauze (or piece of terry cloth) on which you have dabbed a bit of pet toothpaste…do NOT use toothpastes made for humans, because, since dogs don’t rinse and spit, they will cause stomach upset.
- Gently lift his lip on one side and, with the toothpaste flavored gauze wrapped around your finger, rub both the inner and outer surfaces of the upper and lower teeth. Then switch to the other side. Keep the sessions very short so that he doesn’t get frustrated. .never forcibly restrain him. Do this daily for at least a week, being generous with praise and treats.
- Switching to a brush is sometimes difficult even though there are ultra-soft pet toothbrushes shaped to fit your pet’s mouth and teeth, and finger brushes, made especially for dogs, Do not try to hold the dog’s mouth open; just slide the brush in under the lips and along the teeth, toward the molars. Some dogs adjust well to a brush; others do not….don’t give up if the first few times the session doesn’t go well, and always offer a reward.
If you find that your dog will not tolerant the brush treatment, using a warm washcloth with a small amount of pet tooth paste on it is better than nothing. With a slow circular motion, you can gently brush the teeth and adjoining gum line. NEVER go beyond your pet’s comfort zone, and always end each session with a treat reward and lots of praise.
Providing proper dental care for your dog is simple, and not always easy, but if you add it to your routine, without making a big deal out of it, it can become a pleasant experience for both of you, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing he’s healthier and happier because of your efforts.