Updated November 5, 2021
Periodontal disease — a gum disease caused by plaque and gingivitis — is the most common dental condition in adult dogs. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that most dogs will show signs of having periodontal disease by age three. This bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of your dog’s body. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your dog’s mouth: it can cause kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.
Since your dog can’t tell you they’re not feeling well, brushing their teeth gives you a chance to check for any symptoms of gum disease. Bright red gums, teeth discoloration, sensitivity, excessive drooling, and difficulty eating are all signs something is wrong.
Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth will go a long way toward keeping your dog healthy. It can keep them around for years to come and prevent costly veterinarian bills. Practicing regular oral hygiene will improve gum health, prevent tooth loss, remove plaque, and give your pooch fresh, kissable breath!
Doggie toothbrushing isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Though you need to be patient during the process, it’s important to constantly associate good dental hygiene with positive reinforcement. Making this a positive experience will help your dog enjoy doggie toothbrushing in the future. Brushing your dog’s teeth can even lead to a deeper canine-human bond, all while giving them clean teeth in the process.
👉 Visit our guide for more detailed instructions and advice on brushing your dog’s teeth.
Our veterinarians recommend looking for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Approval.
“The most effective kinds of toothpaste will be the ones that are veterinary-approved or the ones that have the Seal of Approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). These are backed by clinical trials and by the opinions of medical professionals,” explained Erica Irish, DVM.
After all, there are many pet toothpaste and brush products on the market — and not all of them are as effective as they claim. The VOHC evaluates and reviews products that are intended to fight plaque buildup and tartar. Look for the seal on any dog health product. Check the VOHC’s list of approved products for dog dental care before purchasing.
You’ll want to choose a pet toothpaste that not only freshens your dog’s breath and removes plaque but has an appealing taste with a poultry flavor or peanut flavor.
Never use human toothpaste — leave that Arm & Hammer or Colgate to the humans. Human toothpaste contains a harmful ingredient called xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is lethally toxic to dogs. Since xylitol can poison your dog, it’s not safe for them to consume (and typically requires an emergency vet appointment if ingested). Xylitol can cause severe drops in blood sugar, which can result in seizures, lethargy, and liver failure.
Another common ingredient in human toothpaste, fluoride, is also dangerous for dogs.
Most dog toothpaste is made with enzymes. The enzymes in doggie toothpaste alter the pH in the mouth to make it harder for bacteria and plaque to form by reducing biofilm accumulation. Since bacteria create bad breath and tartar build-up, enzymes reduce tartar build-up and bad breath.
Natural toothpaste is easy to make at home. It’s safe for dogs — you just need to make sure the ingredients you’re using are safe. Homemade dog toothpaste is cheaper and allows you to control and customize the ingredients, taste, and flavor for your dog. Try out one of our four recipes to get started, which use household ingredients such as baking soda, olive oil, or parsley.
There are two types of dog toothbrushes: handled brushes and finger brushes.
Finger brushes. These are small brushes that fit over your finger. For big dogs, finger brushes can keep you in control as they allow closer contact with your canine. For smaller dogs, a small handled brush or finger brush may fit their teeth better.
Long-handled brushes. These are most similar to human toothbrushes, though there are some varieties. Double-ended toothbrushes have two ends with different sizes that are perfect for reaching incisors and molars. Double-headed dog toothbrushes clean both sides of your dog’s teeth at the same time. Long-handled brushes can make it easier to reach the furthest teeth, which is handy for larger dogs.
We recommend trying different types of brushes to find what works best for you and your canine companion. The size and breed of your dog doesn’t matter as much as their preferences.
Regardless, you will need to reach the back of your dog’s jaw, so you need to select a brush that reaches all their teeth. We don’t recommend human toothbrushes because they are shaped for human teeth, not canine, and the bristles are too hard. A soft-bristled brush is a must, especially as harder bristles can be uncomfortable with gum disease. Whatever toothbrush you select should have soft enough bristles to give your dog an efficient, yet gentle tooth brushing experience.
Vets recommend brushing dog teeth daily. If that’s not possible for your schedule, try weekly brushings. Regular brushings ensure your dog’s teeth stay fresh looking and smelling, and help prevent costly veterinarian bills.
Just like how humans need regular, yearly check-ins at the dentist, veterinarians recommend yearly cleanings for dogs. Veterinarians may take x-rays to examine the health of your dog’s jaw and tooth roots below the gumline that can’t be observed otherwise. Vets will do something called scaling, a process that removes dental plaque and tartar that naturally builds up over time.
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly and economical approach, we’ve got you covered. Making toothpaste at home is perfectly safe — assuming you use the ingredients we recommend. Try one of our four easy-to-make homemade recipes.
Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. It doesn’t just help good oral health: it prevents problems that lead to expensive animal hospital trips.
Dental disease can cause chronic, life-changing pain in pets, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. The AAHA reports that years of plaque, tartar, and bacteria build-up can lead to infections and diseased teeth.
Dog dental chews can be used in addition to daily brushings. While supplementing daily brushings with health products like dental chews or dental water additives can make a big difference in your dog’s dental health, they should never be used as a replacement for brushings. Brushing only takes 30 seconds, the length of one television commercial. We strongly believe that pet owners should brush their dog’s teeth every day!
Dental water additives are liquids that can be added to your dog’s water to clean and freshen their mouths. These are not replacements for daily toothbrushing, but are helpful for fighting plaque and reducing tartar. Many dental water additives have ingredients like zinc chloride and citric acid that fight bad breath or sodium citrate that prevents bacterial buildup.
🚩 We do not recommend “brushless” toothpaste. It’s basically a dental treat, and we firmly believe manually brushing your dog’s teeth every single day is a big part of being a responsible pet parent.