Battersea’s three-step guide to brushing your dog’s teeth.
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How many teeth do dogs have?
Did you know that adult dogs typically have 42 teeth, that’s ten more than the average human. This includes 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars. However, the number of teeth can vary slightly depending on the breed and individual dog. Puppies, on the other hand, have fewer teeth than adults. They usually have 28 temporary teeth, also known as puppy teeth, which are eventually replaced by their permanent teeth, just like with humans.
Do dogs need to have their teeth cleaned?
Dental care is essential for maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being. Brushing your dog’s teeth frequently will prevent the build-up of plague, reduce the risk of dental diseases, and promote fresh breath.
Without regular cleaning, your dog’s teeth can accumulate plague, which eventually hardens into tartar. Dental chews can be effective in reducing the build-up of plague, but it’s important to note that they are often calorie-rich and shouldn’t be relied upon as the only source of dental care for your dog.
To ensure optimal health and well-being, it’s essential you incorporate a regular brushing routine into your dog’s care as this will maintain their dental hygiene and reduce the risk of oral health issues. It may take some time getting your dog accustomed to having their teeth brushed regularly, but with patience and proper training, most dogs can learn to accept and even enjoy the process!
Brushing your dog's teeth
Step one: Introduce a ‘chin rest’
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure your dog is used to having your hands near their face. We recommend introducing them to a ‘chin rest’, which involves encouraging your dog to rest their chin in your hand. If they stay still, use a mark word such as ‘yes’ to reward them. Keep in mind that each dog is different, and this may take some practising. Once your dog is comfortable with a chin rest, slowly start brushing your fingers over their mouth, and eventually, their teeth. Continue to pat and stroke your dog and offer them lots of praise. In essence, this will help get them used to the motion of a toothbrush, which we’ll introduce in the next step.
Step two: Introduce the toothbrush
Once your dog is comfortable with a chin rest, you can then introduce the toothbrush to them. It’s important to select a toothbrush catered specifically for dogs as you can guarantee that these will be pet-safe and have softer bristles, meaning they won’t cause any damage to your dog’s teeth and gums. Be sure to let your dog sniff and lick the toothbrush so that they can familiarise themselves with it. Reward and praise them each time they do this as this will help them build a positive association with the toothbrush.
Wait until your dog is actively engaging with the toothbrush. Watching your dog’s body language closely, you can bring it closer towards them while their mouth is open. Continue to gently move the toothbrush lightly against their mouth, rewarding and praising them with each interaction.
Once your dog is fully comfortable with the toothbrush, we recommend reintroducing the ‘chin rest’. Continue to bring the toothbrush closer to your dog’s mouth and praise them if they stay still. If they move away, practise this step again when your dog is comfortable. It’s important to make progress at your dog’s pace throughout. Once comfortable, gently move the toothbrush across your dog’s mouth and teeth to get them used to the sensation.
Step three: Introduce the dog toothpaste
Human toothpaste is poisonous to dogs, so it’s essential you use a dog-specific paste when brushing. Start by introducing the toothpaste on your finger, allowing your dog to sniff and lick it. There are many different flavours of toothpaste available, so it may take some experimenting to see which flavour your dog likes the most.
After your dog has shown that they enjoy the taste of the toothpaste, you can then add it to the toothbrush. Ask your dog for a ‘chin rest’ and gently start to brush their teeth. It's important to go at a slow pace and never brush too hard as this will irritate your dog’s teeth and gums. Your dog may be wary of this step and will likely try to move their head away, so it’s important to practise this slowly and repeat the second step if needed.
Practice makes perfect!
With a few weeks’ practice, you’ll soon be able to brush your dog’s teeth smoothly and effortlessly. Aim to concentrate on the area where the teeth and gums meet. Even if you have an older dog, don’t lose hope. It may take some more time, but they can still be trained to tolerate having their teeth brushed. If you have any concerns about your dog’s teeth, or if they have a significant build-up of plague, we recommend taking them to the vet as they may need a professional evaluation and possible treatment.
Vitabiotics is proud to be a long-term supporter of Battersea. Vitabiotics donates 35p plus VAT of every pack of SuperDog sold. This will help fund their vital work supporting dogs and cats in their centres and around the world.