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How to clean your dog’s teeth

Most dog owners will be relieved to learn that dogs are far less prone to tooth decay than humans are, but although there is no need for twice-daily brushing of your dog’s dentures, it is still important to keep an eye on their oral hygiene.

Dental problems in dogs can have all the same negative effects as they can in humans: tartar, plaque and gum disease have the potential to do lasting damage to a dog’s teeth. If these problems are left to fester then they can cause more significant issues, as explained here in this article. To avoid the risk of damage to your dog’s liver, heart and kidneys as a result of issues beginning in the mouth, there are some important preventative steps you can take.

Getting started

Ideally, every puppy would have their teeth brushed from birth to ensure that they are used to it and understand that the appearance of a tooth brush is not the opening to a negotiation. However, owners who adopt their dogs slightly later in life may need to work on getting their pets used to the idea of regular dental care.

Try using a brush with double heads at a 45-degree angle as this will allow you to get twice the brushing done in half the time and clean below the gum line which is just as important as keeping the teeth themselves clean. It is also important to choose a specialist dog toothpaste as the fluoride in human toothpaste is poisonous to dogs, but there are plenty of suitable pastes formulated specially for dogs.

When and how to brush

It’s best to try brushing your dog’s teeth after a walk so that they will be more likely to sit still and don’t worry about trying to do too much the first time – your main goal at first will be to get your dog used to the idea of brushing so if your dog starts getting agitated then it’s probably time to stop. You don’t want your dog to associate tooth brushing with stress or anxiety, so use a calm and reassuring tone and give your dog a treat afterwards.

As your dog gets used to the fact that tooth brushing is a treat, you will be able to get further into their mouths and have a good look around to check that everything is looking fine. If your dog is completely against the idea of brushing, you may be able to help keep their teeth healthy by ensuring that you feed them dry food over wet, as it is less likely to stick to the teeth and cause decay.

There are also plenty of chew toys and artificial bones which are designed to help keep dogs’ teeth and gums clean and strong. Even a normal bone will help reduce any build up on their teeth, but it’s not as effective as brushing, so do persevere with proper brushing if you can.

How to spot and solve dental problems

Whether you do it when brushing, or just whilst playing, it’s important to have a good look around your dog’s mouth every week or so. The important things to check for include: bad breath, unusual drooling, swollen or bleeding gums, bumps or growths, a yellow crust on the gums and missing, damaged or misaligned teeth. If you notice any of these symptoms, or see that your dog is struggling to chew on one side, pawing at its mouth or showing other signs of being in pain, then a trip to the vets is in order. Even without symptoms, it’s worth having your dog’s teeth checked once or twice a year, and your vet should be able to give you advice on how to tackle any problems that they spot.

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