How to brush a dog’s teeth | Do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
How to brush a dog’s teeth | Do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?


“Do I really need to brush my dog’s teeth?” If you’ve never asked this question, let alone thought it, don’t worry, you’re not alone. As a vet, I’m asked this question daily and the answer is most definitely ‘yes’. 

Just like humans, dogs can develop a build-up of tartar and plaque if their teeth aren’t cleaned regularly, so I highly recommend rolling up your sleeves and getting in there with a toothbrush and toothpaste (but not just any toothbrush or toothpaste - only those that are specially made for your furbaby. More on that below).

Here’s a step-by-step guide to brushing your dog’s teeth. You can also watch the video featuring the ever-so patient Benji to see exactly how it’s done.

How to brush your dog’s teeth: the vet’s guide

  1. Start when they’re babies. This gets them used to having your fingers in their mouth and means they’re less likely to kick up a fuss when you want to brush their teeth. If you didn’t start them young, it’s not a problem - it’s still possible (and important) to find ways to brush their teeth.
  2. Get a toothbrush. There are lots of different kinds made specially for dogs. Make sure you get the right size to suit your pet. You can also get dog toothbrushes that fit on top of your finger, which can make it easier to brush your animal’s teeth - you simply use your finger to get in and get those teeth nice and clean.
  3. Pick your toothpaste. IMPORTANT! You must choose a toothpaste that is especially made for cats and dogs. Human toothpaste contains xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs. I like to use Pet Dent, as dogs really seem to like it.
  4. Start brushing. Put a little toothpaste on the brush, then gently lift your dog’s lip and start cleaning the teeth. Make sure you concentrate on all the teeth, starting right at the back and getting all the way to the front. You can use a circular motion or a side-to-side motion. You don’t have to worry about cleaning the inside of the teeth, as your doggie’s tongue usually does a fairly good job of this.
  5. If your dog already has a hard tartar build-up, don’t fret - this can happen quite easily, especially with smaller dogs. You’ll need to get her to the vet for a dental, where all the tartar will be removed by the vet. You’ll then need to maintain a regular brushing schedule to keep the plaque and tartar at bay, and to avoid another dental visit.
  6. For calmer dogs who simply need to get used to brushing, you can use your finger with a little oral gel applied. Get them used to the feeling by putting the gel on your finger and just playing around inside their mouths. Once they’re used to it, you can move onto a toothbrush.
  7. For dogs who really don’t like the toothbrush, there are other options. There’s a wide range of dental chews available, which taste like treats and clean your pooch’s teeth as they’re eating them. There’s also a product that you can add to your dog’s drinking water, which helps to prevent plaque and tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth each time they have some water. Bonus: it gives them great-smelling breath too.


Good luck keeping your doggie’s teeth clean. Watch the video below for more tips, and remember: may the floss be with you!

Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.


Video transcript:


Title: How to brush your dog’s teeth from a vet’s perspective

How to brush your dog’s teeth from a vet’s perspective 

Hi, I'm Dr Jones from Zuki. Today we have Benji here. He's going to be our patient, and I'm going to go through with you how to brush your dog's teeth. I get asked on a daily basis, "Is it even necessary to brush my dog's teeth?". And the simple answer is 'yes'. Yes, we should be brushing our dogs' teeth because their teeth get dirty, and plaque does build up on their teeth.

The easiest way to start brushing your dog's teeth would be to start when they are a puppy, when you first get them, so that they are used to the toothbrush and toothpaste. If you have not started when they're a puppy, don't worry, it's not too late, you can start at any time. 

The first thing you need to do is get yourself a toothbrush. There are many different types of toothbrushes on the market. Find one that suits you and suits the size of your animal. This one is quite cool because it's got two sides to it. It's got a big side for a big dog, and then a small side for a much smaller dog. Another handy type of toothbrush is one that actually fits on top of your finger, so that you can use your finger when you are brushing the dog's teeth. 

Then you need to choose a toothpaste. I've got Pet Dent here, it's a great toothpaste, the dogs like the taste. It is really important that you use a toothpaste that is specifically for pets - for dogs and cats. Do not use human toothpaste on your dog because human toothpaste contains xylitol, which is actually poisonous to dogs.

So you've got your toothpaste and you've got your toothbrush. You take a little bit and you put it onto your toothbrush. What you want to do there - I'm going to use the finger toothbrush, because I think it's really handy to just have your finger to use it - you're going to lift up the lip and then you simply brush the dog's teeth. You can use a side-to-side motion or a bit of a circular motion when you're brushing your dog's teeth. And you want to concentrate on all of the teeth, right from the back to the front on the outside of the teeth. You don't have to worry about brushing the inside of the teeth. The tongue is usually good at brushing the inside of the teeth. So you just brush in a side-to-side or a circular motion on the outside of the teeth.

The more regularly you can brush your animal's teeth, the better it is for them, because it helps to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth. If you already have a build-up of plaque of tartar on the teeth, which can happen quite easily, especially in your small dogs, they may need to see the vet for a dental, where they physically have to remove the hard tartar that is present on the teeth, and then what you want to do after that would be to brush the teeth to prevent any further build-up and to prevent them from having to go back to the vet for another dental.

Now, some of you might be thinking that I'm crazy and that it's impossible to brush your dog's teeth because they simply won't you allow you. If you've got a dog that's quite easy to handle and tolerant of you, you can start by just using your fingers and taking a bit of an oral gel - there are gels available on the market as well - and you use your finger and you just play around inside of their mouths. As they get used to that, you can move up to a toothbrush.

If your dog really doesn't like the toothbrush, luckily there are other options available. Some of them are dental chews. There are many dental chews on the market. They're great. It's a treat for your dog; they love them, and they clean the teeth while they chew the chews. Another wonderful thing that they've come out with is a water additive. This is a liquid that you add into the drinking water, so every single time your dog goes for a drink, he's drinking something that helps to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth and, as a very cool additive, makes your dog's breath smell really good.

Thank you so much for watching. See you next time.

Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.

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