Why It Is Important To Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

Our essential guide will assist you to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and clean, whether you have been cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly or only just starting out on your dog teeth cleaning journey. The tips and advice in this blog will help to maintain a healthy mouth environment, keep your dog’s teeth clean and you learn to know what is normal inside your dog’s mouth.

Always Consult Your Vet

It goes without saying that the following teeth cleaning tips are suggestions for a regular, good practice in keeping your dog’s teeth clean. These do not replace any advice from your vet and you should always consult your vet if you are concerned about anything regarding your dog’s health.

Veterinary Dog Consultation

Understanding Why Cleaning Your Dog’s Teeth Is Important

After posting on Facebook about how I have been keeping up with cleaning Barney & Sandy’s teeth daily (when I had previously cleaned them a couple of times and then forgotten all about it! bad dog mama) I had quite a few comments from my followers (which I love!). This made me realise that, whilst I do know that daily teeth cleaning is important, I didn’t really understand why or what is the best way to clean their teeth.

Dog having teeth cleaned

So, I had a chat with our lovely friend, Anna, who is a fully qualified dog groomer at The Dog House Leicester, a luxury dog grooming salon based in Leicestershire. Anna specialises in introducing puppies to the grooming process as early as possible to enable them to have a more enjoyable grooming experience. for tips and advice on keeping your dog’s teeth clean at home. I asked Anna for tips and advice on keeping your dog’s teeth clean at home. She has helped me have a better understanding of cleaning dog’s teeth, I hope she will help you too, I definitely learned things I didn’t know!

A Conversation With Anna, Owner of The Dog House Leicester

Why is it important to clean your dog’s teeth?

It’s important to ensure your dog has good dental health as a buildup of plaque and tartar can lead to painful problems and periodontal disease which in turn has the potential to manifest further health complications down the line.  Prevention is better than cure and we want our dogs to be happy and healthy.

When should you, ideally, start brushing your dog’s teeth?

Ideally, as soon as you get a puppy it’s great to start desensitising them to having around their faces touched and the teeth looked at, read our blog post on quick and easy dog grooming sessions to help.  This will help you to see how your puppy’s teeth are developing and also to make sure, when adult teeth are coming through, that there’s no baby teeth still there.  You should really start to brush your puppy’s teeth as soon as possible just little bits at a time.

teeth of a puppy

What happens if you don’t clean your dog’s teeth?

There different stages of periodontal disease from a buildup of plaque and tartar to tooth abscesses and tooth loss. Although our dogs are very stoic and hide pain well, they could be suffering without us knowing. Dogs are 5 times more likely to develop gum disease than a human as their mouth is more alkaline (and we brush our teeth daily!).

Plaque tartar on dog teeth

Can you make a difference to your dog’s teeth if you have never brushed before and start now?

Yes you can, providing there’s not too much damage to them already.  It’s difficult to advise on this as each dog is very different. I would suggest having a chat with your vet about teeth cleaning and also see if there’s a local groomer that offers a teeth cleaning service.

How do you clean your dog’s teeth? Is there a best way to do it?

The best way to clean your dog’s teeth is to first ensure they are happy with their face and mouth being touched.  You will need to work slowly and make sure that the dog is happy and not displaying any calming signals such as ears pinned back, whale eye, growling etc.

If your dog is aggressive or doesn’t like being handled then I would avoid doing this with them.  The last thing you want is for your dog to feel that they have to bite.

What equipment do I need to start?

There are different types of brushes, you can get ones similar to human brushes, or you can get finger brushes. It’s worth trying, to see which works for you and your dog.

Different kinds of tooth brushes for dogs.

Personally, I found the finger brushes a bit easier to use as I had more control. If you have more than one dog, ensure you use a different brush for each dog, to avoid any cross-contamination.

You need some toothpaste which I will cover below (please do not use human toothpaste as it contains Xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs). 

You may want to wear some disposable gloves too if the thought of touching your dog’s teeth doesn’t really appeal to you….especially if you have a poop eater! It’s also worth having some high value treats to hand so that you can reward and praise your dog.

What toothpaste should I use?

Enzymatic toothpaste is really the way to go as it helps to reduce bacteria in the dog’s mouth, and they come in meaty flavours. In the salon, we use an Emmi-Pet Teeth Cleaning System which comes with its own toothpaste, which tastes like sweets (yes we’ve tried it!).

Is there anything I should avoid doing when brushing my dog’s teeth?

You don’t want to force your dog into having their teeth cleaned, it needs to be a positive, and fun, experience for them if you’re really struggling then use a vet or a groomer for regular sessions.

I’ve heard of sonic cleaning, what it is and can you do it at home?

There are a few different sonic cleaning brushes on the market. We use Emmi-Pet in our salon and we have found this a great addition. 

Each dog has its own individual toothbrush head to keep it nice and hygienic. It’s a silent and non-vibrating brush, there’s a chip in the head of the toothbrush which works with the water and toothpaste to create microbubbles that soften and help to remove plaque and tartar.

A lot of groomers will be able to offer this after a consultation. If the groomer is able to work with the dog it’s a great way of keeping on top dental care and your dog doesn’t need to undergo an anaesthetic. You can do it at home but the kit is quite a pricey outlay.  

Can different types of dog food/treats impact their teeth differently?

Absolutely!  Without going too deeply into the ins and outs of your dog’s diet, (that’s a whole other blog in itself and sensitive subject in the canine world) if you think logically, a dog that always eats wet food then his teeth won’t be working against anything ‘scratchy’ to help reduce the build-up.  

Some people say that feeding kibble helps reduce some of the build-up and likewise, people who feed their dog a raw diet and/or raw meaty bones say that this also helps reduce the build-up of plaque.

My dog has bad breath and the toothbrushing doesn’t seem to be helping it at all, what should I do?

In the first instance,  I would suggest you see your vet for their advice, as there could be something else going on that your dog requires treatment for. 

You could look at some of the supplements available to buy, that you add to food and water that helps prevent the buildup of plaque. For example: ‘Pearly Whites‘ by Herbal Pet Supplies or ‘Perfect Pegs‘ by AnimalHerbology.

My Dog Only Has Plaque On His Canine Teeth, Any Tips For Working On These?

The canine teeth are the place that I would start with teeth brushing anyway as they’re bigger and easier to get to. I would imagine that if there is plaque build up on their canine then there’s a chance that their back molars will have build up too.

I suggest you brush little and often with the canines before you start working your way back to the molars. You don’t want to be brushing the gum line too much either as it can make it sore.

I’ve read conflicting articles about dental type chews? Can you recommend more natural type chewing things that can help with keeping a dog’s teeth clean?

There is so much choice when it comes to ‘dental’, teeth cleaning type chews when you look at how they are promoted (easy way to keep your dog’s teeth clean) and how they are designed, it’s easy to see how people favour them.

Dog Chewing A Chew

However – what goes in must come out! I tend to find with my dogs that some of the most popular dental treats aren’t great for their tummy and the kind of poops produced after one of these chews are hard to pick up! 

My personal rule of thumb is, if I’m feeding my dog something that upsets his tummy then it’s not for him. 

I have found there are some other more natural teeth cleaning chews, such as Whimzees which are a great natural treat. Ideal if your dog isn’t keen on having their teeth brushed but will happily sit and munch a treat.

You may also find that some breeds of dog are prone to dental problems. This tends to occur where you see exaggeration in a breed for example, brachycephalic breeds (squishy faces) such as Pugs, French Bulldog and Boxers or sighthounds with a long face – Greyhounds, Whippets etc.

Older dogs may suffer more with dental issues due to the lifetime of wear and tear on their teeth.

Thank You, Anna

A huge thank you to Anna for taking time out of her busy day to chat with me and share her hints and tips for keeping our dog’s teeth cleaned. I hope you find them as interesting and helpful as I do.

I have learnt that I need to change to an enzymatic toothpaste, need to ensure I don’t use the same brush on Barney & Sandy and that I will be looking into more about sonic cleaning.

If you have any other questions about cleaning your dog’s teeth, or dog grooming, then you can join Anna’s FREE Facebook challenge group, where she has masterclasses to help owners.

I’d love to know if you clean your dog’s teeth and whether you found this helpful or learnt something new, like me?

Dog's Teeth Being Cleaned Pinterest Image


  1. Kate

    Wow, what a fab blog and so much information.
    I’m lucky my two love having their teeth brushed, but I know loads of people struggle, so this is such a helpful article.

    • Michelle

      I’m glad you found it useful Kate, how great that your two love having their teeth brushed, I’m afraid I have been a bad dog mum on the teeth brushing front to date, but I plan to get into a good routine now!

  2. Rachel

    I love that Kate’s dogs enjoy teeth cleaning mine both hate it! But we’re persevering! And Anna’s tips are great 👍

    • Michelle

      I am the same Rachel, I need to get into a better routine and up my dog teeth cleaning game. So many great tips from Anna!


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