How to brush a dog’s teeth

Taking care of your dog's teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth is easy to do and very important. It can prevent some serious canine health problems. Gingivitis and tartar buildup can progress into the more serious periodontal disease. Bad infections can spread and can lead to heart, liver and kidney problems. So good dog dental hygiene really is important.


Check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly to see what is normal so you can spot any problems.


For the first few days, just hold your dog as you would normally do when you are petting him.


Gently stroke the outside of the cheeks with your finger for a minute or two.

After each session, reward your dog with treats and praise. For the next few days – after your pet has become comfortable with this activity – place a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger and let your pet sample the flavour.

Next, introduce your pet to a pet toothbrush or finger brush.

Put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that has been specially formulated for dogs on the brush. Gently raise your dog’s upper lip and place the brush against an upper tooth.

With a slow circular motion, gently brush only that tooth and the adjoining gum line.

Each day gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. But go slowly, don’t continue beyond your pet’s point of comfort.

Build up to 30 seconds of brushing per side.

The easiest way in is to go straight, pushing the brush gently from front to back along the gumline, like this. Then add in the gentle circular motion.

After each session reward your pet with a treat and lots of praise.

Brushing should be done daily but missing 1-2 days per week would not be a big concern.

For more information on dog toothpaste, dog toothbrushes and dental disease in dogs – prevention and cure – visit Dental Care and Your Pet.

You can find more useful videos and advice on dog toothpaste, dog toothbrushes and dental disease in dogs on our Advice page.

What kind of toothpaste and toothbrush should you use on a dog?

Always use a canine-approved toothpaste. Dog toothpaste is meaty rather than minty flavoured, so it tastes great to dogs.
If your dog likes the taste, they are much more likely to enjoy having their teeth brushed – and this makes your job a lot easier!
Never use human toothpaste! The fluoride in them can be poisonous to dogs.

Dog toothbrushes have longer handles and softer bristles than most human brushes. They come in various sizes. So choose one that is the right size for your dog.

Pop into your local branch and we can help you choose the right size for your dog.

How often should you brush a dog’s teeth?

We recommend daily brushing. The more regularly you brush, the better: so it becomes routine for you and your dog.

Diet and dog dental hygiene

Diet can be a major factor in the development of plaque and tartar. Soft foods or brittle dry kibble, which crumbs on impact, may contribute to plaque build-up and subsequent periodontal disease.

We, therefore, recommend special non-brittle fibrous kibbles as they can be helpful in preventing plaque build-up above the gum line. Hill’s t/d, which we stock, is considered the best of its type and a similar technology is in the Hills Vet Essentials range. These are recommended by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Dental chews can be a useful adjunct to brushing and/or diet but should not be relied on alone

What is periodontal disease in dogs?


Don’t ignore bad breath in your pets; it can indicate periodontal disease.


Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth and takes hold in progressive stages.


It starts out as plaque, then calcifies into a hard rough substance called tartar or calculus. If left to spread, plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that worsens over time.


This leads to infection and in the final stages of periodontal disease, the surrounding soft tissue and bone are infected and the tooth becomes loose.


This process is very painful for your pet. Regular home dental care and professional cleaning can stop periodontal disease before it starts.

Dental disease has serious consequences

If left untreated, dog dental disease can cause or impact:

  • Gum infection
  • Bone infection
  • Liver function
  • Kidney function
  • Heart disease

What to look for:

  • Bad breath
  • Inflamed, swollen gums
  • Discomfort and pain
  • Exposed tooth roots
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Weight loss / not eating

How to prevent dog dental disease

  • Firstly, you should have your pet’s teeth examined by one of our team on a regular basis. As many conditions are progressive, early identification
is important.
  • If necessary, this should be followed up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing them.
  • Our team will then remove the tartar above and below the gumline using ultrasonic and hand scalers, just like a dentist uses for our teeth.
  • The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste.
  • If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here. However, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary.
  • Once all dental work is finished, the anaesthetic is completed, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
  • It is then recommended that an oral hygiene programme is started at home. This involves daily tooth brushing as it is considered to be the most effective way of removing plaque. Soft-bristled toothbrushes and a veterinary toothpaste designed for dogs and cats are available at our surgery.
  • These kinds of toothpaste appeal to pets and do not need to be rinsed. When brushing is not practical, an antibacterial oral rinse or gel may be recommended to help slow the build-up of dental plaque.
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