Why You Must Brush Your Dog’s Teeth: Dog Dental Care Tips for Healthy, White Teeth

October 26, 2021 5 min read

dog dental care tips

What is your dog’s dental hygiene like? Do you spend enough time brushing your dog’s teeth and making sure they have clean, healthy gums? It’s easy to overlook the importance of a regular dental routine as your dog’s dental health is probably not the first thing on your mind (except for the moments when they sneak you a kiss and you’re hit with a whiff of bad dog breath, of course). Read on to find out why sparkling clean, white teeth are a key indicator of a dog’s dental health and their overall health. We’ll provide you with essential dog dental care tips to keep your dog’s teeth clean and happy.

dog dental care tips

So why does your dog's dental hygiene matter so much?

Without proper dog dental care, plaque and tartar build up on your dog's teeth. This encourages the growth of bacteria, which causes the dreaded dog breath that most of us know all too well. Brushing your dog’s teeth and establishing a healthy flossing routine can help keep bad breath at bay. But dog breath isn’t the only thing your pup is at risk for without a proper dental hygiene routine. Excess bacteria in the mouth can travel down the digestive system and cause your dog to have gut issues. Insufficient brushing and flossing can also lead to problems like tooth decay and gum disease. As we want the best for our dogs, these are things we definitely want to avoid!

Proper dog oral hygiene prevents gum disease, reduces inflammation, and prevents canine tooth decay. In addition, brushing your dog’s teeth can help you to detect common orthodontic problems like fractured or broken teeth. 

While other strategies like giving your pup a dental treat or antler to chew on do clean and strengthen your fur baby's teeth, they are not enough to ensure proper dog dental health. Though it can be difficult when life gets busy, it’s so important to set aside time to clean your pup’s teeth. Figuring out how exactly to go about your dog’s oral hygiene can seem complicated, but there are some amazing dental care tools for dogs that you can use to clean out those spots that you (or your pup, as they chew on their dental stick) might have missed. Plus, the time you spend helping your dog with their oral hygiene can be enjoyable quality time--especially for them, once you’ve found a safe toothpaste that they think tastes great!

How should you clean your dog’s teeth?

Maintaining great dental hygiene for your dog can seem complicated at first, but we’re going to make it easy for you! We will break down best practices for brushing your dog’s teeth and reveal the most important dental care products that every dog parent should have.  One of the most common questions when it comes to dog dental care is “can you use a human toothbrush for your dog?” The answer is yes, but it’s important to make sure that the bristles are soft on your pup's teeth and gums. You can also, of course, buy a toothbrush that is specifically designed for pups at your local pet store! Though soft-bristled human toothbrushes are safe, it’s never okay to use human toothpaste on pets as it contains xylitol, a synthetic sweetener that can cause liver failure in dogs, and fluoride, which can cause gut, liver, kidney, and lung damage in dogs.

To be safe, it’s best to do your research and use pup-approved dental care tools. Some of the most common tools include:

  • Dog toothbrushes
  • Dog-friendly toothpastes
  • Finger brushes
  • Dog-friendly dental wipes
  • Water additives that are dog-safe and xylitol-free

Toothbrushes for Dogs 

Dog toothbrushes are available in most pet stores and online. These brushes have softer bristles and an ergonomic design that can reach different angles in your pup’s mouth to remove stubborn or hidden plaque and tartar. A dog toothbrush also has a longer handle to prevent your dog from accidentally nipping you while you brush their teeth. Though it’s certainly okay to use a soft-bristled human toothbrush, many pet owners find that toothbrushes specifically designed for dogs help get the job done even more thoroughly and quickly.

soft-bristled human toothbrush

Finger Brushes for Dog Dental Hygiene

A finger brush for dogs is very small and fits your thumb or index finger snugly, making it a great tooth cleaning tool to use on the go. A finger brush is also very compact and can help reach areas where plaque likes to hide. Some dogs do better with a finger brush than a handled dog toothbrush because they are more receptive to having your familiar fingers probing their mouth than a hard foreign object. However, be sure to choose a finger brush that fits well and will not fall off as you brush. Finger brushes are not always recommended for small dogs, as your finger may be too big to fit comfortably in their mouth. For the smallest dogs, it can be best to buy a toothbrush specifically designed for smaller breeds.

finger brush

Dental Wipes for Dogs

Dental wipes for dogs contain pet-safe ingredients like that prevent tartar and plaque buildup. Another common active ingredient in dog dental wipes is chlorhexidine, which slows tooth decay and reduces bad breath. Dental wipes are a great option for pups who will not tolerate brushing, as wipes are gentler and less invasive but still relatively effective. However, it is important to brush your pup’s teeth in addition to using dental wipes (if they’ll allow it, of course). Wipes are not as effective at reaching the hidden spots of plaque buildup or at creating the abrasion that helps to clean your dog’s teeth more effectively.

Water Additives for Dog Dental Hygiene

Dental water additives are great for preventing canine gum disease. They also contain canine-friendly flavors like mint, which is ideal for curing bad breath. If your dog has an aggressive mouth odor, a water additive can be a great way to make that bad breath a bit more tolerable while improving your dog’s dental health!

Top tips for your dog’s dental care routine:

Choose dog toothpaste your pup loves. Let your pup taste the paste before you use it. If they like it, it’ll make teeth cleaning a much more enjoyable time (for them at least)!

Lift the lips with your fingertips.Never force your dog's mouth open as it can make them uncomfortable, frightened, or even aggressive. Instead, using your fingers, gently lift the sides of your dog's jaws to reveal the teeth.

Brush your dog’s teeth gently.Use light circular motions to clean the teeth. Ensure you reach between the teeth to clean out leftover food, plaque, or tartar. 

Supplement with other dog dental products:If possible, it is always a great idea to finish things off with dental floss or dental wipes for added protection. Giving your pet safe, healthydental chews, sticks, or treats is also a great way to supplement their dental care. Always be careful not to overdo it with both brushing and dental treats, however!

Supplement with other dog dental


It is extremely important to establish a safe, effective dog dental care routine with your pup. Setting time aside to clean your dog’s teeth keeps their mouth clean and gums healthy, avoiding bad breath as well as more serious adverse health conditions. Always make sure to use teeth cleaning products that have been approved by vets (and pets, too). Your pup will thank you later, and you’ll be happy when you’re no longer smelling bad dog breath with every kiss from your pup!

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