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Published: Nov 28, 2011

Brushing a dog's teeth has become a priority for pet owners over the last few years as VCA Animal Hospitals reports that nearly two thirds of dogs over the age of three have peridontitis, an inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. This periodontal disease often results in tooth and gum infections, pain, loss of teeth and even organ damage in pets. The key to management of periodontal disease is prevention—and the gold standard is daily toothbrushing.

Although brushing a dog's teeth can be learned at any age, teaching the technique to a puppy typically goes over better and gets the pup into the habit as it ages, making the activity less painful for all involved.

VCA reports that owners should try to brush their dog's teeth every day. To begin this training, VCA suggests bringing the dog to a quiet room. The dog should sit with its head facing away from its owner. Start by gently massaging the outer surfaces of the dog's teeth with a soft cloth, going back and forth. During the first few sessions, it's best to just rub a few teeth rather than the dog's entire mouth until it gets comfortable with the process. After a few trial runs, let the dog taste the toothpaste. Human toothpastes should be avoided as they contain ingredients that could be detrimental to the dog's pet health if swallowed. Use only toothpaste that is made for dogs - most come in flavors like beef or chicken. Once the dog gets used to the taste, apply the paste to the soft cloth and start to rub it over all teeth. After it has gotten used to the cloth, it's time to start using a brush. There are numerous dog toothbrushes available that accommodate
all different dog sizes and shapes to help make the daily process easier and more efficient. Ask your vet about the right toothbrush and brushing technique for your dog.

In addition to daily tooth brushing, dogs will intermittently require professional dental cleanings to prevent periodontal disease. The frequency of these cleaning will depend on the success of the at-home brushing. Talk to your vet about the best plan for your dog.