We eat food that wedges between our teeth. And we clean our teeth to stop infection and damage. So why not dogs? Just like people, a dog with bad teeth or a toothache isn’t funny. Least of which are the “doggy breath” jokes.
Just like in people, bacteria builds up in your dogs mouth. If your dog’s teeth aren’t brushed regularly this can cause a hard, calcified build up (plaque, just like us!) that literally needs to be scraped off with a tool. If we don’t help care for our dogs’ teeth, they’ll rot. Bacteria will work its way into their systems, damage important organs over time, and shorten your dogs life span.
One thing you can to do to make sure this doesn’t happen is to take your dog for regular vet appointments, including a dental check-up. If you’ve never cleaned your dog’s teeth, he or she will probably have to have a “scaling” where the calcified tarter is scraped away from the teeth. The procedure is thankfully quite harmless. However, your dog will need to anesthetized so she might be groggy (and have sore teeth) for a day or two afterwards.
In order to limit these scaling procedures to a minimum, cleaning dog’s teeth on a regular basis is critical.
You can, and should, brush your dogs teeth just like you do your own. There are two types of toothbrushes available for this – one is a rubber tube that fits over your finger and has rubber “bristles” on the end and the other is a toothbrush that looks very similar to a “human” toothbrush but angled a bit differently. Often these toothbrushes have a double end, with a small and a large brush on each end. I have both types in my home, as I have three dogs and each one is different! Experiment with your dog to see which one works best for you.
The next thing you need is toothpaste. There are special toothpastes for dogs that are inexpensive and have yummy flavours like poultry and beef which helps come cleaning time. My dogs are just like children with cleaning their teeth, they really don’t want it to happen but they love the toothpaste flavour and the attention!
Most importantly though, and the reason why you should never use human toothpaste on a dog is that our mouth enzymes are different. Dog toothpastes contain specific ingredients to battle the particular that builds up in a dogs mouth.
When cleaning dogs’ teeth, you need to get to every tooth – even the ones way in the back – as well as around the gums. Your dog probably isn’t going to like this at first but after a while he or she will get used to it. Be persistent. You may only be able to do a few teeth at first, but as you get better at cleaning your dog’s teeth, and your dog starts to view the cleaning as another ritual in the home, it will become much easier.
A tip – rub some toothpaste on your dog’s front teeth the first day. That’s it. The next day, rub a little more, also on a couple of side teeth. Do this for a few days to acquaint your dog with the toothpaste taste, and your finger. Then introduce the brush, and do the same thing for a few days. Then clean the front teeth properly with the brush. Next time, add a couple of teeth either side of the front teeth. It’ll take a couple of weeks to be able to clean each tooth from front to back. Much of this process is about trust. Your dog trusting you not to hurt him or her with this strange contraption, and you trusting your dog not to nip. So take it slowly. That fresh doggie breath and clean white teeth is worth it!