Do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?

by Christina Yglesias  • 
Do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?

Imagine for a moment what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed your teeth. Not pretty, right? Next, ask yourself this: when was the last time you brushed your dog's teeth? If you can’t remember or the answer is never, keep reading.


Just like we do, dogs need regular dental care to keep their teeth and gums healthy, but only 2% of pet parents brush their dog’s teeth at home and only 14% of pets receive dental care at the vet’s office. This lack of dental care and regular brushing leads to some pretty grim statistics:

 

  • Dental disease affects 80% of adult dogs.
  • Dental disease affects up to 96% of senior dogs over 12 years of age.

The risks and costs of dental disease in dogs


The impact is more serious than just bad breath. Untreated dental disease can cause pain and discomfort for our pups and can even impact our dogs’ overall health. 


Bacteria trapped under the gumline can enter our dogs’ bloodstreams and cause health problems in other areas of the body. According to certified veterinarian Dr. Tammy Pearce, 


“Gum disease and severe gingivitis can also lead to chronic health conditions, potentially causing heart, kidney and other organ problems.”


We all want our dogs to live long and healthy lives, which is the best reason to start a regular teeth cleaning routine. The other reason? Daily preventative care can also help lessen the likelihood of expensive dental work down the line. 

 

A deep dental cleaning in a vet’s office is a moderate procedure with a hefty price tag. A cleaning requires preparatory tests, bloodwork, and general anesthesia (being ‘put under’). If a dog needs extractions (tooth removal) a single dental cleaning can cost up to $3000

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth? 


Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard, but any brushing is better than none at all. Daily dental care can seem daunting at first, but we have some tips and tricks. If you’re having trouble remembering to brush your dog’s teeth, try ‘habit stacking’. 

 

Two bags of Jinx dental chews on a bathroom counter top next to toothbrush and toothpaste


Identify an ingrained habit in your own daily routine and tack on doggie dental care to that existing habit. For example, you could brush your dog’s teeth every evening after you brush your own teeth. Place your dog’s toothpaste or a post-it note in the bathroom as a visual reminder to habit stack. Alternatively, if you walk your dog every morning, you could finish the routine with a teeth cleaning session before or after the walk. Place your dog’s dental care kit next to the leash as a daily reminder. Before you know it, brushing your dog’s teeth will become a regular habit.

How do I brush my dog’s teeth? 


If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth, let’s start by breaking things down step-by step. First things first, you’ll want to make sure your dog is comfortable with you touching their mouth and gums. If they aren’t, you’ll need to work on getting your dog used to having their mouth handled before you try brushing. Jumping right into brushing before your dog is comfortable could accidentally create a negative association with this important routine, making it hard to maintain. If your pup is extremely scared or you think they may be a bite risk, seek guidance from a certified dog trainer before starting.


Next, make sure you have toothpaste designed for dogs (don’t use human toothpaste!) and a soft-bristled brush (this can be a human toothbrush or a dog toothbrush). Pick a flavor you know your dog will love, like poultry, beef, or seafood. Add some of the dog toothpaste to the brush and simply let your dog lick and taste the toothpaste before attempting to brush. The goal is to help your dog see the toothpaste as a treat, which will make daily brushing so much easier. Reward your pup with a few bite-sized treats along the way to solidify a positive association with the toothbrush.


Once your dog is comfortable with the process up to this point, you can start brushing! Take plenty of breaks with ample treat rewards in between mini brushing sessions. Notice your dog’s body language and go at their pace. If they try to pull away or show you any signs of distress, stop for the day and try again tomorrow. If you notice any blood on the toothbrush, you may have brushed too hard or for too long. 


For more detailed instructions with tips from certified dog trainer Erika Gonzalez, watch our step by step video guide

Can I clean my dog’s teeth without brushing?


There’s no replacement for brushing, but you can help keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath fresh with a daily dental chew. Chewing increases blood flow to help release tartar build up that leads to dental disease and bad breath. 


Jinx dental chews are the most limited ingredient dental chews on the market. (We dare you to compare our ingredient list to Greenies.) With only sweet potato, chicken, honey, and peppermint oil, Jinx chews are easy-to-digest and low-calorie. The best part? They have a taste your dog will beg for and an extended chew time that will keep your dog engaged.

 

golden doodle dog sits on his bed waiting for dental chew being handed to him

 

Sources

Stella JL, Bauer AE, Croney CC. A cross-sectional study to estimate prevalence of periodontal disease in a population of dogs (Canis familiaris) in commercial breeding facilities in Indiana and Illinois. PLoS One. 2018;13(1):e0191395. Published 2018 Jan 18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191395; Banfield State of Pet Health 2016

 

DuPont GA. Prevention of periodontal disease. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1998; 28(5): 1129-1145

 

Veterinary Pet Insurance. Brush up on your pet’s oral care. http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-dental-care/Brush-Up-on-Your-Pets-Oral-Care.aspx. Accessed 20/4/2017

 

Quest BW. Oral health benefits of a daily dental chew in dogs. J Vet Dent. 2013;30(2):84-87.

 

Wiggs RB & Lobprise HB 1997, Boyce EN et al 1995 8 – Fiorellini JP et al 2006; Rober M 2007; Corba NH 1986

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