How to Clean your Dog’s Teeth – Dental Care Guide

How to Clean your Dog’s Teeth – Dental Care Guide

Cleaning Your Dog’s Teeth and Their Dental Care

We all want our dogs to be as healthy and as comfortable as possible. From feeding them the right foods, to bringing them out on walks and taking them to the vet, we do everything we can to ensure our beloved four legged friends are in the best shape. But do you know how to clean your dog’s teeth and give them a proper dental care routine? It’s one thing that can often get overlooked, but is essential for the health and wellbeing of your pet.

Check our our Cat Dental Care Guide here.

Dr Carol Doyle Veterinarian

Carol Doyle, BSc VN DVM

Carol DoyIe is a small pet veterinarian in a practice in Ashbourne, Co. Meath and is the human companion to her cats, Nala and Donal, two horses - Indie and Bella, and her dog Phoebe.

As a guest blogger and advisor, Carol shares her professional advice with pet owners, answering many of the questions that she gets asked regularly in-clinic.

Why is dental care for dogs important?

Dogs love exploring the world through the use of their mouth-they play, eat, as well as lift and move objects. Therefore, it’s essential that their teeth and gums are looked after properly and given the correct dental care.

It’s not just keeping the bad breath and yellow teeth at bay-cleaning your dog’s teeth is essential to prevent issues like gingivitis (an inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease which can lead to heart, liver and kidney issues, as well as tooth loss.

Thankfully, there are many ways to ensure your dog’s teeth are kept in good condition.  Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly with a toothbrush and doggie friendly toothpaste is the most efficient method of keeping their mouth clean and removing any leftover food between the teeth.

Certain toys and treats that are specially formulated to decrease any bacteria in your dog’s mouth can also help with their dental care.

Just as we clean our own teeth every day, it’s important we give the same dental care to our pets too.

Small dog having his teeth cleaned and getting proper dental care

How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth – Step by Step

Before you start brushing your dog’s teeth, there a few important things to remember – first of all, if you have never brushed his teeth before, he won’t know what you’re doing, so it’s really important that you spend the time to teach your dog about tooth brushing. Ideally, you should start brushing your dog’s teeth when he’s still a puppy, but you should still be able teach your older dog that tooth-brushing is ok.

Secondly, only ever use a toothpaste that has been made especially for dogs. Human toothpaste contains fluoride and is very poisonous to dogs. We have a selection of toothpaste designed for dogs you can find below.


  1. Make sure your dog is comfortable and in a relaxed environment – the last thing you want is for him to develop anxiety and negative feelings about this new dental care routine.
  2. Gently stroke your finger along his jawline, and then into his mouth along his teeth and gums. This may take a few days for them to get comfortable, so don’t rush into anything. You want your dog used to you touching inside his mouth before introducing the toothbrush and toothpaste.
  3. Once your dog is happy with you rubbing his mouth, squeeze a small amount of toothpaste onto your finger and allow him to sniff it and lick it.
  4. Once he has become comfortable with the idea of toothpaste, gently apply the toothpaste across his teeth and gums using your finger. Again, you may need to practice this slowly over a few days before introducing the brush – it’s important to allow them to get accustomed to this routine.

Introducing the Toothbrush

  1. Once you and your dog feel ready, take your toothbrush and gently begin brushing his teeth.
  2. Focus on his front teeth and gently make your way to the back of his mouth. His inside teeth may take some time to get to as he learns to become more comfortable with the toothbrush.
  3. Apply a gentle circular motion, taking it slow and stopping regularly so they can give a lick of the toothbrush.
  4. Cleaning your dog’s teeth at least three times a week will help remove plaque and avoid any tartar accumulation.

If you find your dog is very uncomfortable, there are alternatives you can try to tooth-brushing. It may be necessary to get veterinary assistance if you feel your dog has a lot of plaque and tartar built up on their teeth.

Dog with plaque and tartar built up on his teeth

Alternative dental care for dogs

While brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is preferable, there are many other ways to help with your dog’s dental care.

  • Mouthwash is available to add to your dog’s water which can help to clean the teeth and gums
  • Chew toys can be really beneficial and many are formulated to help reduce plaque and fortify your dog’s teeth and gums. Always ensure they are the correct size for your dog (small toys can be choking hazards) and that they are not too hard, as this can cause broken teeth.
  • Special treats are available to help prevent dental issues in dogs. As with the chew toys, make sure any treats you buy are suitable for your dog.

When Should I See a Vet?

Always inspect your dog’s mouth every week to ensure no plaque or tartar has built up. If you notice any of the following signs when inspecting your dog’s mouth, immediately consult your vet and they can provide you the most suitable dental care advice.

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Signs of sensitivity in the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the teeth and mouth
  • Discolouration of the teeth
  • Visible tartar

What is gingivitis and periodontal disease?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, which can be caused by heavy plaque on your pet’s teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease, which can severely damage the gums and tissue that support your pet’s teeth.

Gingivitis is treatable however, and with a regular cleaning and dental care routine, it is reversible. If suspect your dog has gingivitis, you should immediately consult with your vet on the best possible way to treat them.


Prevention is better than cure, so make sure your dog is getting their teeth cleaned regularly. There is a range of dental care options available and our team in-store are available to help you to find the one that is most suitable to your pet’s needs.

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