How To Brush Your Dog's Teeth (And How Often)

She’s gonna LOVE it 🦷

So you want to take a shot at brushing your dog’s teeth at home, but you don’t really know how to start.

You’ve come to the right place.The Dodo reached out to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian working with SpiritDog Training, and Dr. Mary Manspeaker, a veterinarian working with the Humane Society of Memphis And Shelby County, to find out their secrets to brushing dogs’ teeth.

Why is brushing your dog’s teeth important?

Brushing your dog's teeth helps reduce plaque buildup on the teeth. “Plaque is an accumulation of bacteria and saliva that, over time, breaks down the ligaments around the gums of the teeth,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo. “This allows bacteria to enter under the gum and cause dental decay. The plaque also acts as a sticking point for tartar (the brown deposits we see on teeth).”

By brushing daily, you break up the plaque layer and help reduce the rate of buildup of plaque and tartar.

Additionally, routine teeth brushing helps to reduce the buildup of tartar that can lead to periodontal disease. “This disease includes bad breath, gingivitis, dental infections, pain and loss of teeth,” Dr. Manspeaker told The Dodo.

While teeth brushing is not completely preventative at keeping away plaque and tartar, it’s still the single best thing we can do for our pets’ teeth at home.

What you'll need to brush your dog’s teeth

A toothbrush

You’ll need a children’s toothbrush (it’s softer than an adult’s) or a dog-specific toothbrush. “I recommend Virbac’s range of toothbrushes,” Dr. Wigfall said.

Try the Virbac Oral Hygiene Kit from Amazon for $12.85


Whatever brush you choose, make sure the bristles are soft enough to prevent irritation to the gums, Dr. Manspeaker advised.

There are also dog toothbrushes available with a different size brush on each end to accommodate for larger and smaller pets. “There are also brushes that fit over the end of your finger,” Dr. Manspeaker said. “These can make control of the brush a little easier — just make sure your pet doesn't swallow the brush!”

Try the Jasper Dog Toothbrush from Amazon for $13.99

Toothpaste

You’ll also need a pet-specific toothpaste. These come in tasty flavors, such as malt and poultry. “It's important to use dog toothpaste as human ones can be the wrong pH for the mouth but also contain toxic additives such as xylitol, which is harmful to your dog,” Dr. Wigfall said.

Dr. Manspeaker recommends the Virbac C.E.T Enzymatic Toothpaste for Dogs and Cats Poultry Flavor.

Try the Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste from Amazon for $19.99

When choosing your dog’s toothpaste, it's important to use the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved products to choose a toothpaste and any other dental supplies for your pet. “The products on this list have been robustly scientifically tested to prove they work and are promoted by veterinarians as the best your pet can get for dental care,” Dr. Wigfall said.

Tips to brushing your dog’s teeth

Luckily, most dogs love having their teeth brushed because the toothpaste is yummy, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to do a few things in the beginning to get her used to it.

Here’s how to brush your dog’s teeth:

Find a quiet place to start

Try to find a nice comfortable, quiet place for teeth brushing. “You can incorporate your pet's teeth brushing as part of your nighttime routine as you and your pet are both preparing for bedtime,” Dr. Manspeaker said.

Let her try the toothpaste first

Before you try brushing your dog’s teeth, start by letting your pet lick the toothpaste off your finger for a few days to get her used to the taste. “Then introduce the toothbrush with toothpaste into the front of the mouth without brushing any teeth for a few days,” Dr. Wigfall said.

Brush just one tooth the first time

Once your dog’s used to the toothbrush in her mouth, you can start brushing just one tooth (incisors at the front of the mouth are a good place to start) — and use lots of praise when doing so!

Gradually build up how many teeth you’re brushing

Gradually build up the number of teeth you can brush until you can brush all teeth in the mouth daily. “Keep sessions short and use lots of praise,” Dr. Wigfall said. “There is no need to rinse the mouth afterwards.”

Additionally, you only need to brush the outside of the teeth, not the inside of the tooth. So this should make it a bit easier to do!

Be patient

Always reward your pet during the process with encouraging words, then offer a special treat at the end. “Never punish your pet or speak harshly if they are resistant to having their teeth brushed,” Dr. Manspeaker said. “Just stop and try again another day.”

How often to brush your dog’s teeth

While it’s ideal to brush your dog’s teeth twice a day (just like with people), aiming for three times per week is a good goal.

“If you can brush your pet's teeth once daily, that is great, but even a couple of times a week is beneficial,” Dr. Manspeaker said.

What to do if your dog hates getting her teeth brushed

Most dogs love having their teeth brushed! “If your pet doesn’t like having their teeth brushed, it may be because the mouth is painful,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Schedule a checkup with a veterinarian to make sure there is no dental pain that needs addressing before restarting the learning process. [Once cleared], repeat the steps above, but go very slowly.”

While most dogs love getting their teeth brushed, there are some dogs who will not allow teeth brushing at all, even if there’s no pain. “In this case, you will need to look for alternative ways to keep your dog's teeth healthy, such as prescription dental diets, dental treats and a yearly dental hygiene appointment with a veterinarian for a deep clean of the teeth under anesthetic,” Dr. Wigfall said.

Brushing your dog’s teeth should be just another part of your routine, and with the above tips, you should be brushing her teeth like a pro in no time.

We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.