8 tips for dog dental hygiene

Veterinarian examining teeth of dog

Periodontal disease is any inflammation or infection of the teeth, gums, or related structures. It’s caused by a number of bacteria and their toxins. Left untreated, these toxins damage the teeth, gums, and supporting tissues. With time, teeth will loosen, become painful, and eventually fall out. The toxins can also spread via the bloodstream to other organs in the body, including the kidneys, liver, GI tract, lungs, and heart.

Fortunately, periodontal disease is very easy to prevent and treat. Here are eight tips for keeping your dog’s oral health in tiptop shape.

1.    Have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned by your veterinarian as often as needed. Most dogs need their teeth professionally cleaned at least once each year. Others, especially larger breeds, may only need the procedure done every few years, while many smaller breeds need cleanings more frequently, usually every three to six months. Remember, anesthesia makes it very safe for virtually all dogs, including seniors, when you take a holistic approach.

2.    Brush your dog’s teeth as often as possible, every day, if you can. Buy an appropriate sized toothbrush for your dog’s mouth, and have your veterinarian recommend a dental product such as a toothpaste or gel. Don’t use human toothpaste.

3.    If you have a puppy, start brushing while he is young even if you think he doesn’t need it. It will train him to accept this important procedure throughout his life.

4.    Some dental products can reduce the buildup of bacterial plaque in your dog’s mouth.  Consider a dental solution and dental gel which can be applied by brush or simply your finger, or you can simply add the dental solution to your dog’s water each day.

5.    A good natural diet will keep your dog’s entire body healthy — including his teeth and gums.

6.   Try raw dog bones but remember to match the proper size of bone to your dog’s teeth. Also keep in mind that no matter how safe you are, bones occasionally splinter and get lodged in the mouth or throat, or result in a fractured tooth. Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines when it comes to offering your dog fresh meaty bones.

7.    Choose the appropriate chew toys for your dog as well. Once again, these are designed to prevent a fractured tooth.

8.    Examine your dog’s teeth and gums at least once a week. If any teeth are missing or fractured, contact your veterinarian for advice. In many instances you will be referred to a specialist in dental care. Veterinary dentists offer the same procedures your personal dentist offers you, including root canals and other advanced procedures designed to save your dog’s teeth.


Veterinarian Dr. Shawn Messonnier wrote The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats, The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog. He's the pet care expert for Martha Stewart Living's "Dr. Shawn — The Natural Vet" on Sirius Satellite Radio, and creator of Dr. Shawn's Pet Organics. His practice, Paws & Claws Animal Hospital (petcarenaturally.com), is in Plano, Texas.