Tips for Better Dental Health in Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on September 04, 2023
4 min read

Keeping your dog healthy includes taking care of their oral hygiene. Taking care of your dog’s teeth and giving them a healthy diet can decrease their risk of oral diseases later on. Untreated dental disease can cause tooth loss and other painful infections in your dog’s body. 

1. The Breath Test

Bad breath can be a common sign of oral disease in your dog. It's natural for your dog's breath not to smell great. But if your dog’s breath is overwhelming, it may be caused by periodontal disease or decaying teeth. 

2. Lip Service

Checking in on your dog’s gums and teeth every few weeks will help you know what’s going on in their mouth. Their gums should be pink. If they are white, red, or swollen, you might want to schedule a visit to the vet. Their teeth should be clean without brown tartar buildup. 

3. Signs of Oral Disease

Dental disease can cause a lot of pain in your dog. After years of tartar, plaque, and bacteria build up, your dog could have an infection, inflammation, or decaying tooth. Dogs often don't show pain, so it may go unnoticed. If your pet is increasingly irritable and lethargic and doesn’t want to eat, it may be a sign that they have oral disease. 

4. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay

Tooth decay can happen over time. It starts with plaque building up and hardening into tartar. Untreated tartar and plaque buildup below the gumline can be difficult to remove and damages the tooth. 

Untreated tooth decay and infection can lead to periodontal disease. This can be life threatening to your dog. Brushing regularly and managing your dog’s oral health can prevent tooth decay. 

5. Canine Tooth-Brushing 

Brushing your dog’s teeth might not be something you’re aware you need to do. But it can be a great way to prevent plaque buildup. Unlike humans, you don’t need to brush their teeth daily. Your dog may not like having their teeth brushed at first, but making a routine out of it and getting them excited can help. 

You’ll need to use a dog toothbrush or a fingertip toothbrush for the brushing. You’ll also need dog-specific toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste, due to the chemical's toxicity to dogs. Your vet can advise you on the right tools for brushing.

6. Brightening the Pearly Whites

The most important part of brushing your dog’s teeth is removing plaque from their gum line. The following tips will help you have the best brushing experience with your dog: 

  • Create a calm atmosphere before brushing.
  • Make sure your dog is comfortable. 
  • Touch your dog's teeth and gums without the brush first. 
  • Touch the toothbrush to their teeth. 
  • Introduce the toothpaste to your dog by letting them lick it from your fingers. 
  • Add toothpaste to the toothbrush and start brushing.
  • Take it slow and move from the front to the back and the top to the bottom. 
  • Reward and praise along the way. 

7. Brushing Frequency

Teeth brushing is the foundation of good oral health. After your dog has learned to tolerate brushing, trying to do it once a day will be most effective. Brushing once a day can reduce future dental cleanings from the vet later on. 

8. Know Your Mouth Disorders

Dental disease begins early. By adulthood, many dogs have some degree of dental issues. Early signs of dental disease include bad breath, yellow or brown tartar buildup on teeth, and red and swollen gums. Noticing early can help alleviate your dog’s pain quickly. Dental disease can cause chronic pain in your dog that may go unnoticed. 

Similar dental problems that happen in people can happen in dogs. Common problems include broken teeth and roots, periodontal disease, infected or abscessed teeth, tumors in the mouth, and teeth misalignment. 

9. Chew on This

Chew toys are great ways for your dog to relieve boredom and satisfy their natural instinct to chew. Gnawing on chew toys is a natural way for dogs to clean their teeth. The constant chewing scrapes plaque from their teeth. Make sure to rotate and monitor safe chew toys. Also, be careful that chew toys will not break teeth - certain types of bones can fracture your dog's teeth.

10. Diet for Healthy Teeth

There’s not one perfect diet for every dog. Your veterinarian can help you determine the right diet for your dog. Keeping your dog healthy is more important than choosing wet food or dry food. If your dog has continued trouble with plaque buildup, there are special formula dry dog foods that control plaque and tartar.