How Do I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

You do it every day, but the thought of brushing your dog’s teeth makes many of us feel nervous and uncomfortable. We’re here to tell you that it can be easy and fun if you know what you’re doing, so read on and you’ll learn how to brush your dog’s teeth to retain his fresh breath and healthy smile.

How To Brush Dogs Teeth

Dog Toothpaste

Please allow us to make one thing very clear, you should never use human toothpaste on your dog. They are far more prone to swallowing the toothpaste and some of the ingredients in human products will make your dog quite sick.

Your local pet store will sell a specially formulated toothpaste that is safe for your dog. It will likely come in a meat or malted grain flavor that they will enjoy, which makes the whole process that much easier on both of you.

Many veterinary dentists suggest toothpastes that contain chlorhexidine, hexametaphosphate, or zinc gluconate. For dogs with periodontal disease, your vet may prescribe a toothpaste or treatment with fluoride.

Dog Toothbrush

Your dog gets his/her own toothpaste, so it’s only right that he/she gets a specially designed toothbrush as well, right? In fact, there are several options and when it comes to brushing your dog’s teeth, it’s important to pick the one that works best for you and your dog. What you use depends on the size of your dog’s mouth, teeth, and gums.

Special dog toothbrushes come in different shapes and sizes and are usually smaller than human brushes, extremely soft, and have a unique shape. You also have the option of using a finger-fitted brush, as some people find them easier to use inside their dog’s mouth.

If you’re just getting started and your dog isn’t going along with the brushing like you had hoped, you may want to try dental sponges which have a small handle with a sponge at the end and are disposable. They are also softer than brushes and may be more comfortable for dogs with sensitive teeth and gums.

Dog Dental Chews

In nature, dogs would maintain the health of their teeth by chewing. What they chew on ranges from the bones of their prey to sticks and other items found in their environment. Lucky for your dog, the list of products designed to maintain a dog’s dental health is endless.

There are specifically designed treats that help to remove plaque and tartar, as well as toys that scrape the nasty stuff off of their teeth. While some of these products advertise these benefits as more of a marketing strategy, there are those that actually work. Our experts recommend commercial dental chews (especially those recommended by Veterinary Oral Health Council) to help improve and maintain your dog’s oral health. They can be very effective at keeping your dog’s smile bright and shiny.

A good way to tell whether your dog chew is soft enough is with the “thumbnail test.” You should be able to make a light indentation into the chew with the pressure of your thumbnail. If you can’t, it’s probably too hard and may damage your dog’s teeth and gums.

Dogs thoroughly enjoy sitting and chewing these items, sometimes for hours at a time. The end result is proper mechanical cleaning of the tooth surface and ample gum stimulation. Just be sure to get the appropriate size suited to your dog; little dogs can’t handle big chews and big dogs may unintentionally swallow large pieces of smaller chews that can cause choking and serious gastrointestinal issues.

Also, you may notice a bit of bleeding from your dog’s gums if they haven’t chewed on these items before, but over time their gum health will improve and the bleeding will stop. If the bleeding is severe, have your dog examined by your vet in order to check for excessive gum disease, tooth decay, or infection.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

If you start young, your dog will get used to the brushing and may even come to enjoy it. However, if you have an older dog you may want to slowly work up to giving them a full brushing and let them get accustomed to such a strange new behavior.


Give your dog a taste of the toothpaste you’ll be using in order to get them used to the new routine. They’ll probably like the way it tastes which will make them more likely to let you brush without putting up a fight. You’ll want to start off by repeating this step for a few days.


Next you’ll want to get them used to having something placed against their teeth and gums. Take a bit of the toothpaste on your finger and rub it around the canine and front teeth. These are the easiest to reach and the ones your dog will be most likely to let you touch. Be sure to give them lots of praise as you complete this step. They probably feel even more uncomfortable than you do. Again, repeat this for a few days to get them used to it slowly.

Introduce the Brush

Now it’s time to introduce the actual brush you’ll be using to clean your dog’s teeth. Let them lick a little toothpaste off of the brush to get used to the new object. Then, much in the same way you used your finger to contact the canines and the front teeth, only touch the teeth that are easy to access and avoid making your dog uncomfortable. Lots of praise for a job well done will help to reinforce their good behavior. Keep this up for the next few days, as you’re almost ready to brush the whole mouth.

Time to Brush

You’ve worked hard to get your dog used to this new activity. Now it’s time for all of your patience to pay off. You’ll want to brush each of your dog’s teeth at a 45-degree angle to their gum line for several passes. If they aren’t willing to let you go all the way to the back of their mouth, be patient and work up to that level of comfortability over time. If you can’t brush your dog’s teeth every day, try to do it at least once a week and provide them with some of the items we mentioned above to help them chew their teeth clean.

TIP: A soothing voice will go a long way to calming a nervous dog during an unfamiliar activity. Talk your dog through the brushing will lots of praise and you’ll have better results.

When to See a Veterinarian for Your Dog’s Dental Care

Even those of us with the best of intentions can let things slip, especially when it comes to something as foreign and easy to ignore as brushing your dog’s teeth. Some dogs require professional cleaning at your vet’s office or even the extraction of one or multiple teeth.

If your dog has extremely bad breath it could be a sign of a rotting tooth. The decay may also be causing them to avoid eating or favor one side of their mouth when chewing. Finally, any excessive bleeding when chewing should be examined, as your dog may have serious periodontal disease that requires prescription treatment.

When you tell your non-dog-owning friends about brushing your pooch’s teeth you may get a few funny looks, but it’s an extremely important part of being a dog parent. Your dog is depending on you to keep their mouth clean and healthy.

How to brush your dog’s teeth is a question we receive a lot and now you have the know-how to make sure they have a sparkling smile well into their old age.