How Often Should You Brush Your Dog's Teeth? The Ultimate Guide


alt="Beagle outside in a grassy park itching his chin with his back paw due to seasonal allergies"

You love your dog and will do whatever you can to keep them healthy and happy. That includes taking care of their teeth! But if you're not sure where to start, don't worry––we're here to help!

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Should I brush my dog’s teeth? Absolutely! 

It's no secret that good dental hygiene is important for humans and animals. Just like us, our furry friends need to have their teeth brushed regularly to prevent plaque build-up and gum disease. You might be wondering, “how often should I brush my dog's teeth?” 

It’s best to brush your furry friend's teeth daily. If they’re young, this will get them used to having their teeth brushed and help prevent plaque build-up over time. Older dogs require daily toothbrushing to keep dental plaque from worsening and to keep their gums healthy as they age. 

Brushing with a dog toothpaste is also important for preventing plaque buildup and removing bacteria from the mouth (which can cause halitosis or bad breath). If you notice heavy build up or red inflamed gums, talk to your veterinarian about the next steps, which may include a dental cleaning in their office.

If you're unsure about how often to brush your dog's teeth, talk to your veterinarian––they'll be able to give you advice that’s tailored to your pet's individual needs. 
Beagle puppy chewing his knee due to skin allergies

What supplies do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?

Now that you know how often to brush your dog's teeth, what kind of supplies do you need? These tools can make brushing dogs’ teeth easy to do on a regular basis:

First, you'll need a canine toothbrush––these can be found at most pet stores and are specially designed to reach all the way back to the molars. You can also use a regular toothbrush if it's the right size for your dog's mouth; just make sure the bristles are soft so they don't hurt your pup's gums. 

Next, you'll need some dog toothpaste (also found at most pet stores). Make sure to get toothpaste that’s safe for dogs to ingest, as they will likely swallow some while you're brushing their teeth. Most dog tooth gels and toothpaste are flavored so that your dog will enjoy the experience. Never use human toothpaste on your dog, as it can make them sick. 

Finally, get yourself a small finger toothbrush made of cotton or silicone. These can be helpful for reaching hard-to-reach areas around the back and sides of teeth or for massaging the gums. 

To supplement your dog’s dental hygiene routine, you can find treats specifically designed to help clean your dog's teeth as he chews them. These are usually called dental sticks or dental chews and include tasty flavors and abrasive materials to help brush your dog’s teeth.

Whichever method you choose, be gentle! Dogs don't like having their teeth brushed any more than we do, so go slowly and be as patient as possible. You can even offer a few calming chews an hour or so before brushing your dogs’ teeth to help ease them into the process. 

Adult dog lying on its side in the grass beneath the trees on a sunny spring day

How do I get my dog accustomed to tooth brushing?

First of all, you should start slowly when introducing your dog to teeth brushing. Let them sniff the toothbrush and toothpaste (make sure it's canine-safe!) and get used to the idea before actually trying to brush their teeth. Once they're comfortable with that, you can start with a few strokes on the front teeth with just your finger and the toothpaste to get them comfortable with the process. Then you can gradually get your dog used to using a brush on a few teeth before trying the whole mouth. 

The best way to get your dog used to having their teeth brushed regularly is to make it part of their daily routine! Just like you brush your own teeth every day, make sure to include a quick brushing of your dog's teeth as part of their daily routine. Your dog will soon get used to it––and it will help keep their smile clean and healthy!

Here are some general guidelines for brushing your dog's teeth:

Start early

If you get your dog used to having their teeth brushed from a young age, they’ll be more accustomed to the routine––making the process easier for you both in the long run!

Be consistent

Once you start brushing your dog's teeth, make sure to do it on a regular basis. Twice a week is a good starting point, with eventually transitioning to brushing every day. 

Use the right tools

A toothbrush designed specifically for brushing dogs’ teeth is great, but you can also use a finger brush or gauze wrapped around your finger. Avoid using human toothpaste, as it can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Instead, use pet-safe toothpaste or water.

Be gentle

Dogs don't typically like having their teeth brushed, so it's important to be gentle and patient throughout the process. Take things slowly at first, and be sure to give plenty of praise (and a few treats) along the way.

Other ways to promote oral health in dogs

In addition to brushing dogs’ teeth on a regular basis, there are more ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy. Preventative care, dietary habits, and daily hygiene can set your dog up for success in long-term dental health!

Brush regularly

Brushing dogs’ teeth regularly is the best way to support their overall dental health. Remember to be gentle, use the right supplies, and reward your dog for going along with it!

Add probiotics

In addition to having benefits for your dog’s digestive health, probiotics can also help support normal bacteria inside the mouth––while helping to fight the bad bacteria responsible for plaque and bad breath. 

Try a dental diet

Ask your veterinarian about prescription dental food that’s formulated for dental health. For dogs at risk of periodontal disease, these special formulas might be a beneficial alternative to conventional dog foods.

Give dog dental treats

Abrasive dental chew sticks can help buff away food debris sitting on the surface of your dog’s teeth between meals, potentially reducing the risk of damage from plaque and tartar buildup. 

Schedule regular dental cleanings

During routine health exams, your veterinarian will take a peek inside your dog’s mouth to make sure everything looks normal. If they (or you) are worried about your dog’s risk of periodontal disease, dental cleanings done by your veterinarian will ensure the mouth gets a routine deep-clean so plaque doesn’t build up and cause dental decay (cavities) and gingivitis. 

So there you have it––everything you need to get started brushing your dog's teeth in order to keep their teeth sparkly clean and healthy!

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Dr. Joya Griffin is an Ohio native and graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a special interest in fungal and immune-mediated skin diseases as well as feline and equine dermatology. Dr. Joya always strives to care for her patients as if they are her own pets and loves building long-lasting relationships with their pet parents. Dr. Joya also stars in the Nat Geo WILD television series, “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which highlights the challenging and mysterious cases she encounters in veterinary dermatology.

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