Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth (Video)

Quincy has really bad teeth. When she was a puppy I noticed they were crooked and that she had an overbite. After that, I didn’t look at her teeth for a couple of years! When she started to smell bad, even after a bath, I poked around in her mouth. She had loose teeth, tartar, receding gums and blood. Off to the vet we went. He said that she needed her teeth cleaned, and at least four extractions. It cost me about $200. Since then, she’s had two more dental cleanings. The last procedure cost over $500 and the vet removed eight teeth! (Yes, she still wolfs down dry food.)

Was it worth it? Yes. Quincy will be 12 years old in November and she’s in excellent health! Loose, infected teeth made Quincy feel sick and smell bad. Rotten teeth may also have led to a systematic infection and shortened her life.

Since her last dental procedure, I’ve tried to be better about dental care. It’s not easy. She doesn’t like it much, and neither do I.

how to brush your dog's teeth
I touched Sherlock’s lips and gums and gently rubbed them with a toothbrush from a young age so he would get used to the sensation.

When you start to brush your dog’s teeth, she’ll think it feels funny. Quincy used to clamp her mouth shut. Kinsey would kind of shake her head away because the bristles felt funny on her gums. Rook is the only dog I’ve had that LOVED getting his teeth brushed right from the beginning. He’d run over to me and hold really still so I could scrub. So, unless you have a dog like Rook, go slow. Get your dog used to the feeling of the brush. You might even start with a dab of peanut butter on your finger and a nice gum massage. Just like teaching your dog a new skill, short frequent periods of practice are the most effective. Eventually she won’t mind the feeling of the brush on her teeth and gums.

When your dog is more relaxed about the brush, the scrubbing begins. Just like with your own teeth, you need to get both sides of the tooth, the top and bottom, and the roof of the mouth. Be careful about how much pressure you apply when you start! Quincy’s gums used to bleed quite a bit, now it’s less so.

how to brush your dog's teeth
It’s important to pull your dog’s lips back and really inspect her teeth.
how to brush your dog's teeth
Quincy gums still bleed after a good scrubbing.

One way to help your dog enjoy having her teeth brushed is to buy a flavored dog toothpaste. I tried baking soda and Quincy hated it! With chicken flavored toothpaste, she’s more willing to hold still and let me put the toothbrush in her mouth.

I also recommend purchasing a toothbrush designed for a dog. I got this kit for under ten dollars! The brush fits into Quincy’s mouth better than a human toothbrush, and the extra bristles allow me to spread the toothpaste on the brush and scrub more of her mouth before I need to reload.

how to brush your dog's teeth
Kinsey likes to lick the flavored toothpaste off her teeth.

Another trick? Every time I finish brushing Quincy’s teeth, I give her a treat. It’s a good way to associate something positive with an activity she doesn’t like much.

I also reward myself because it’s hard for me to remember to brush her teeth. I’d like to tell you I do it daily, but I don’t. My goal is three times a week, and my quick reward is a piece of chocolate. Long term, I spend less money on doggie dental care.

We’re all trainable. Dogs and humans alike. 🙂

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