February is Pet Dental health Month, and one of the best ways to maintain your dog's oral health is to brush his teeth.
When plaque is allowed to build up on your dog's teeth, it hardens into tartar, a sticky substance that adheres to the teeth, irritates the gums, and causes bad breath and gingivitis.
If these conditions are left untreated, they can cause tooth and bone loss, and diseases of your pet’s heart, liver and kidneys as an infection enters the bloodstream. So it’s extremely important to maintain a regular teeth cleaning practice either daily or at least three times a week.
However, if your dog already has extensive tartar buildup, inflamed gums, or if you notice any broken or missing teeth, please consult your veterinarian, who will schedule a professional oral exam and dental cleaning (depending on your dog’s age, of course). Once your dog’s teeth are fully cleaned, you are ready to begin your home care regime.
Brushing your dog’s teeth is a step-by-step process. You want it to be stress-free by gradually introducing your dog to the feel of your hands near his mouth, teeth and gums. He also needs time to adjust to the toothbrush and taste of the toothpaste.
Never use human toothpaste, which can contain fluoride, and is poisonous to dogs. Always use a pet toothpaste, an enzyme-based product formulated with anti-bacterial properties, that comes flavored in beef, fish, and chicken. If your dog is finicky and doesn’t like the taste, you can mix baby food into the toothpaste, or add a little peanut butter. Another alternative is coconut oil, my favorite, which is also antibacterial. Dogs love its taste.
You can select either a toothbrush made especially for dogs with a longer handle and soft bristles, or a finger toothbrush that fits over your index finger. If you have a smaller breed dog, you may also use a baby toothbrush, which you can purchase at the drugstore.
Prepare your dog by acclimating him to the feel and motion of the toothbrush in his mouth. Gently lift your dog’s lips, and touch the teeth and gums with your finger. Then use a piece of gauze. Move your finger around his mouth, and mimic the toothbrush action. Do this procedure daily until he feels comfortable.
Next, introduce the toothpaste. Put a dab of toothpaste on your finger, allow your dog to sniff it, and lick the toothpaste so that it tastes like a treat. Then apply a dab of toothpaste and massage it on a few teeth, and repeat until your dog is familiar with the taste and feel of the paste in his mouth.
Then place a dime-sized amount on the toothbrush, and glide the toothbrush over the front teeth, canine teeth and back molars. Brush in short intervals and pay special attention to the outside of the teeth, and along the gum line where the tartar collects. Brush a few teeth at a time, and don’t forget to gently massage the gums with the brush. Dip the brush in water and finish by brushing the bottom teeth.
The process should only take a few minutes. The objective is to brush as much as your dog likes it and stop when he is becoming uncomfortable. Praise your dog lavishly throughout the entire process and finish with a healthy treat to reward your dog for his efforts and for a job well done.