🐶 How Often Should I Brush My Dog's Teeth? 🦷

🐶 How Often Should I Brush My Dog's Teeth? 🦷

The Importance of Regular Canine Dental Care

As a veterinarian with over 13 years of experience, I cannot stress enough how crucial regular dog dental care is to your pup’s health and wellbeing. 🐾 Disease that begin in your dog's teeth and gums can spread to the heart, kidneys, and other vital organs if left unchecked. While bad breath seems harmless enough, it can be a sign of serious dental disease that requires professional treatment.

That’s why establishing a teeth brushing routine is one of the best things you can do for your canine companion. 😁 But how often is enough to maintain good dental hygiene? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the frequency of brushing needed to keep your dog’s smile sparkling and their entire body happy and healthy. 💓

How Canine Dental Disease Develops

To understand why regular brushing is essential, it helps to first know a bit about how dental disease takes hold. 🐕 Here’s an overview of the process:

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

Like humans, dogs get plaque on their teeth every time they eat. Plaque is a sticky film composed of food particles, saliva, and bacteria. Within just a few days, minerals in your dog’s saliva harden plaque into tartar (also called calculus).

Tartar accumulates quicker in dogs than people because their saliva contains more mineral-rich compounds. As more layers form, chunks of tartar embed along the gumline and under the gums.

Gingivitis and Periodontal Inflammation

This residue irritates the gums, causing redness, swelling, and inflammation known as gingivitis. As tartar extends deeper below the gum surface, bacteria seep into these tiny spaces and cause painful infections.

If left untreated, expanding infection and inflammation of tissue fibers, ligaments, and bone loss lead to advanced periodontal disease. This can erode teeth roots and cause chronic tissue damage, abscessed teeth, loose teeth, and tooth loss.

Full-Body Impacts of Dental Infections

Even more alarmingly, harmful oral bacteria don’t stay localized in the mouth. 😧 Dogs with severe dental disease frequently have higher systemic inflammatory markers due to bacteria spreading internally.

Ongoing exposure allows bacteria into the bloodstream where they can travel to and infect the heart valves (endocarditis), liver, kidneys, lungs, and cause a host of other internal issues.

Determining an Ideal Brushing Routine

Hopefully now you better grasp the gravity behind establishing a solid oral care plan for your pup! 😅 Since plaque and tartar accumulate rapidly, most veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth at least 2-3 times per week. But certain breeds, ages, or health factors can change what’s considered adequate.

Influence of Breed and Age

Some dogs need more frequent brushings than others to combat plaque and tartar before it gets out of hand. Smaller dog breeds tend to need dental care more often because of how rapidly tartar builds up with their smaller mouth real estate and teeth.

Additionally, as dogs age their body produces less saliva, allowing plaque to adhere faster while their weaker immune systems make them prone to infections. Senior dogs generally need more dental attention to stay ahead of disease.

I typically suggest small or senior dogs get brushed every other day at a minimum for optimal oral wellbeing. Larger breeds with no complicating health issues can likely go 2-4 days between brushings.

But ultimately you know your dog best. 💖 If you notice plaque accumulation even with regular brushing, speak to your vet about adjusting frequency based on your pup’s unique needs.

Daily Brushing for Dogs with Dental Issues

For dogs with pre-existing dental infections, swelling, sensitive gums, or missing teeth, I advise brushing daily without exception. 😔 These vulnerable pups already struggle with oral discomfort that brushing helps mitigate alongside other treatments.

More frequent brushing removes bacteria and plaque before they penetrate deeper to cause further problems like abscesses or tooth loss. It also allows any prescribed antibiotics, gels, or other topical medications to penetrate gum tissues better so they’re more effective.

Some warning signs your dog may needlessly daily brushings include:

·         Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums

·         Excessive drooling

·         Bad breath

·         Loose or missing teeth

·         Decreased appetite or difficulty eating

·         Swollen face or jaw

·         Behavior changes like decreased playfulness

·         Recurring nasal discharge or sneezing

If you notice any of these issues, schedule a veterinary oral exam right away. I can then advise you on proper brushing technique and frequency for your doggo’s unique needs.

Incorporating Daily Brushing After Professional Cleanings

Additionally, I recommend daily brushing for at least 2 weeks after your dog receives an anesthetic dental cleaning. This allows you to remove plaque before it re-hardens so you can better maintain the pristine oral health the procedure establishes.

Brushing right up until the next annual dental cleaning also enables your pup’s mouth to remain healthy. Combining daily home care with yearly professional treatment is the best way to manage dental disease long-term. 😀

Key Times to Brush Dog Teeth

Beyond ideal frequency for your specific pup, you should also aim to brush at strategic times to get the most plaque-fighting benefits. Here are my top recommended brushing times for optimal oral hygiene:

📌 In the Morning

Make brushing the first part of your daily doggy routine, right after outdoor potty breaks. Plaque and bacteria accumulate as your dog sleeps, so starting the day by removing them helps prevent further buildup.

This also removes “doggie morning breath!” Letting them lick your face will be more pleasant for both parties. 😜

📌 Before Bed

Right before bedtime is another prime opportunity as plaque starts solidifying into harder-to-remove tartar. Brushing it away before it adheres for hours while your dog sleeps offers fantastic preventive oral care.

It also lets them snooze more comfortably without tooth pain or irritation from residue. You’ll both get a better night’s rest! 😴

📌 After Eating

Whenever possible, doing a quick brush after meals removes stray bits of kibble and debris. This deprives bacteria of prime real estate to grab onto and prevents stains on the tooth surface.

I understand it’s not always feasible if your pup scarfs and runs! But even swiping a finger wrapped in a soft cloth over their teeth post-meal helps.

📌 Before Dental Visits

Finally, be sure to brush diligently in preparation for professional cleanings. Removing excess buildup allows me to access all tooth surfaces better during treatments. Starting with healthier gums and less calculus also supports quicker healing.

Just avoid brushing 24 hours prior so your vet can fully assess oral health upon examination before moving forward with cleaning.

Step-by-Step Brushing Instructions

Now that timing frequency is covered, I want to share my professional advice on proper brushing technique so you get maximum plaque removal with minimal discomfort to your pooch:

Choose the Right Toothbrush and Toothpaste

While human brushes can work, ones made specifically for dogs are ideal. Look for soft, small heads and gentle bristles. I suggest a finger brush that loops over your index finger for better control.

You’ll also want a special toothpaste formulated for dogs - NEVER use human varieties due to toxicity! Enzymatic recipes made from natural ingredients work well and come in yummy poultry or peanut butter flavors.

Start Slowly and Make it Fun

The first few brushing attempts may meet resistance until your pup realizes it feels good. Go slow by letting them lick paste off your finger at first. Then graduate to a soft cloth wrapped finger, praising them during the process.

Once they accept fingers in their mouth, slip on the toothbrush. Keep sessions very short (30 seconds or less) continuing positive reinforcement with treats, petting, and verbal affection. Gradually work up brushing longer over a period of weeks.

Gently Brush Exterior Tooth Surfaces

When ready to brush full force, stand beside your pooch and gently grasp their muzzle to lift their lip on one side. Use your finger or a cloth to rub the external surfaces of the front teeth in small circular motions, then the premolars and molars toward the back.

Flip to the opposite side and repeat, taking care not to brush inward toward the gums or back of the throat to avoid gagging. Focus solely on visible outer areas.

Let Your Vet Handle Under-Gum Brushing

While brushing beneath the gumline is important for humans, I don’t advise owners attempt this given the high risk of injury plus serious health issues if bacteria enter the bloodstream. Leave subgingival brushing to your veterinary professional.

We use special tools to delicately de-bride under gum tissues and remove mineralized calculus during dental procedures. Routine at-home brushings need only tackle surface debris.

Watch for Signs of Discomfort

Even being extremely gentle, your dog may show signs of pain indicating diseased gums or tooth sensitivity needing my evaluation. Temporary yelping, growling, lip curling, tense muscles, or sudden head jerking clues you in to stop.

Skip sore areas but continue lightly brushing unaffected zones. Make a veterinary dental appointment so I can assess for infection, gum recession, fractures or other issues requiring treatment before resuming full brushings.

Additional Methods to Maintain Oral Health

While brushing is the gold standard for preventing dental disease in dogs, other tactics can serve as beneficial adjuncts between brushings:

🦴 Chew Toys

Letting your pup nibble on tough dental chew products helps scrape away soft tartar in hard to reach places. Rubbery texture also massages gums to increase blood circulation.

I suggest supervision so your dog doesn’t bite off chunks that could present a choking risk. But used properly, chews provide enjoyable plaque removal.

🥩 Raw Meaty Bones

Natural bones act like nature’s toothbrush as your dog gnaws away! Chewing scrapes teeth crevices clean while marrow fats promote oral health. I recommend raw over cooked bones since cooking makes them brittle and prone to splintering.

For safety however, ONLY feed bones from approved sources and always supervise your pup. Avoid weight-bearing bones from large mammals which pose higher obstruction hazards if swallowed.

🥤 Water Additives

Specialized dental rinses and drinking fountain filters infuse your dog’s water supply with plaque-preventing enzymes and antimicrobial ingredients with oral health benefits. These provide helpful maintenance between brushings.

Simply add to your pup’s water bowl or fountain reservoir as directed. Effects are milder than brushing but still disrupt debris adhesion when alternate removal isn’t possible.

Professional Cleanings Are Still Essential

While establishing a good at-home wellness routine keeps your dog’s teeth cleaner between vet visits, professional dental care remains vitally important.

No amount of brushing alone fully removes hardened calculus below gumlines or manages advanced infections my deep cleaning methods can. Plus I perform a thorough oral exam checking for issues you can’t see.

This is why I emphasize annual dental cleanings starting around age 1 for long-term health - especially smaller breeds prone to rapid dental disease progression. More frequent visits may benefit some dogs.

My effective treatment paired with your diligent home care makes an unbeatable disease-fighting combo! 🙌

I hope this guide gave you ample insight into ideal dog dental care frequency! Please reach out with any other questions. Now go enjoy celebrating National Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Day on February 16th! 😁🎉