Brushing the dog’s Teeth and Gums

There are a number of good toothpastes and dental products designed for pets. Some contain abrasives such as calcium and silicates. An example is CET Dentifrice. Others use oxygenating substances to limit the growth of anaerobic bacteria (CET dental products and Oxyfresh). Nolvadent and Peridex contain chlorhexidine, which is both antibacterial and antiviral. MaxiGuard contains zinc ascorbate, which promotes healing of diseased gums. Your veterinarian may suggest that you use one of these products, particularly if your dog has gum disease.

For routine cleaning, a satisfactory toothpaste can be made by mixing 1 tablespoon (14 g) of baking soda with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of water. If the dog is on a salt-restricted diet, substitute a salt replacer (such as potassium chloride) for the baking soda. Most dogs prefer flavored toothpastes made especially for dogs, such as poultry or mint. Dog toothpastes also have enzymes that clean more thoroughly than just the normal abrasive action of baking soda.

Do not use toothpaste made for humans. Its foaming action is unpleasant to dogs, and they cannot spit and rinse after using it. Swallowing the fluoride in many human toothpaste is also not good for them.

The gums and teeth can be brushed with a finger or a soft nylon toothbrush with a 45-degree angle to the head. Toothbrushes designed specifically for dogs are available at pet supply stores. Finger brushing is done with a terrycloth washcloth or a piece of gauze wrapped around the finger. Denta Clean, Petrodex, and DDS all offer finger brushes and/or wipes to clean your dog’s teeth. Apply the toothpaste to your wrapped finger. Lift the lips to expose the outside surface of the teeth. Gently rub the teeth and gums in a circular motion. With a toothbrush, apply the toothpaste, then hold the brush at a 45-degree angle, parallel to the gums. Brush in small circles, overlapping the teeth and gums.

It is not necessary to open the mouth, as the self-cleaning action of the tongue will keep the inside surface of the teeth relatively free of calculus. The most important part to brush is the gingival sulcus, where the gum attaches to the tooth. Bleeding may occur with vigorous brushing. This indicates gum disease. Daily brushing should tighten the gums and stop the bleeding in one to two weeks.