Upon returning home from a recent trip to the (human) dentist—surprise! I should floss more—Joy greeted me with her standard bark, jump, and slobbery kiss. Having my own fresh breath greeted by her less-than-fresh breath made me think back to the last time I brushed her teeth. And, I hate to admit, I had to think back a little farther than I should’ve. When was the last time I brushed the dog's teeth?!
Logically, I know dental hygiene is of chief importance to a dog’s overall health. We bathe Joy, we take her to the vet for her annual vaccinations, and we keep her updated on her flea and tick and heartworm meds. So why did brushing her teeth seem so cumbersome?
Well, like anything else, I figured our biggest challenge was simply overcoming inertia. We just needed to start adding it to our routine. Much like with humans, regular dental care helps prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and infection. Since these are obviously beneficial, and she entrusts her care to us, I decided to make it a priority.
Perhaps you and your dog are already canine dentistry all-stars. If that’s the case, we’d love to hear your tips on how you incorporate your dog’s dental hygiene into your everyday routine. If it’s not, and you’d like to join us in changing that, read on for some easy tips to keep those teeth looking as sharp as they actually are.
5 Tooth-Brushing Tips
1. Do it when they’re relaxed
I, personally, am more open to trying new things when I’m relaxed and at ease, and it should come as no surprise that dogs are too. Play and pet Fido first to make sure he’s calm and content before you go jabbing at his face.
2. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs
Don’t go skimping on your dog’s dental tools. Human mouths and dog mouths are structurally very different, and dog toothbrushes are designed to fit their long snouts much better than ours would. Many dog toothbrushes also come with a tube of dog toothpaste. It’s important to use this rather than your own, which may have chemicals that are harmful for dogs.
3. Start small
Rather than aiming to go from tooth-brushing novices to pros in a single time, start small. First, make sure your dog is cool with you putting your hands near his mouth or directly on his gums. If that seems fine, try putting a small dot of the toothpaste on your finger to get him used to the taste. If that’s good, move on to introducing the toothbrush for a minute or two, using small and light circular motions. Your dog will be used to it in no time.
4. Stay in touch with your dog’s comfort level
Don’t push it if your dog is uncomfortable. The goal is to start prioritizing your dog’s dental care, but you don’t want to do so to the detriment of his mental or physical comfort. If he’s anxious, go back to getting him used to your hands near his mouth. If his gums are bleeding, stop and consult your vet.
5. Remember positive reinforcement
Don’t let that old adage fool you; you definitely can teach an old dog new tricks. The key is to use positive reinforcement. After a success tooth-brushing experience, give him some cuddles, a kiss, and tell him what a good boy he is. You didn’t hear it here, but a little treat every now and then also goes a long way, too.
Voila!Ideally, I'd brush the dog's teeth every day. But with any new objective, the road to success is usually paved with incremental change. My personal goal is to start brushing Joy’s teeth two or three times a week. That alone would be a great improvement from the much more sporadic tooth-brushing of the past. Watch out world! Joy’s smile is going to be ready for the big screen.
Don’t worry; no matter how many doggie commercials she’s in, she’ll never forget about us little guys.