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Chances are, your parents and grandparents didn’t brush their dog’s teeth, but today’s pet parents understand the importance of good dental care for their pets.

Dental care for our dogs includes:

  • Feeding them healthy food and treats
  • Having regular dental check-ups at the veterinarians
  • Brushing their teeth

If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth, you may be a bit nervous.  Don't worry.  EVen if your dog does not like having their teeth brushed, there still may be ways to clean your dog's teeth without using a toothbrush.

Brushing your dog’s teeth doesn’t have to be a struggle or a task that you – or they– dread. With patience, and working up to a full-mouth brush, it may just become part of your dog’s home care routine. If you’re new to brushing, don’t rush it, you may get him to enjoy it!  

It’s rare a pup will sit next to you, allow you to pull back his lips and put a finger or a dog toothbrush in his mouth and not try to get away. When you put your fingers in your dog’s mouth he will think you’re playing and will lick or gnaw your fingers to see if you have any food on them.

The first step in brushing your dog’s teeth is to get him comfortable with you touching his muzzle, touching his gums and running your finger across his teeth. To get him interested in what you’re doing, put a tiny dollop of dog toothpaste on your finger and let him lick it off while you gently move your finger along his gums. Try different toothpaste flavors until you find one he likes; they come in chicken, beef and even vegetable flavor. Never use human toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth.  

How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

The benefits of brushing your dog’s teeth include:

  • Clean teeth will give your dog good (or better) breath
  • Clean teeth will boost your dog’s health and happiness
  • Clean teeth can increase your dog’s lifespan
  • Clean teeth may reduce the risk of your dog losing teeth. Missing teeth will impair your dog’s ability to eat his food and that can impact his health.

Plaque and tartar lead to serious dental hygiene issues and infections. Dental issues can lead to painful infections in your dog’s mouth and even life-threatening health concerns

Your veterinarian will check your dog’s dental health during the annual visit. The vet will check for tartar build up, inflamed gums and abscessed teeth. Your veterinarian may recommend a general dental cleaning and tooth removal if your dog has dental issues – this is done under anesthesia.

If you’re ready to brush your dog’s teeth and enhance his health, let’s get started.

Steps for Brushing your Pup's Teeth

Start brushing your dog’s teeth when he turns one-year-old. If you adopt an older dog, you can still brush his teeth and you’d use the same methods; it just may take you longer to get him accustomed to it.

  • Before you put your fingers into your dog’s mouth, spend a few days massaging his mouth and his lips to get him accustomed to your fingers and hands being in his face.
  • Put a bit of dog toothpaste on your finger and let him lick it off. When he’s licking the toothpaste, gently rub your finger onto his gums.

For the first few days or weeks – depending on how your dog takes to it – brush a few of her teeth every day. Don’t stress if you can’t brush her whole mouth at once. Brush the front teeth first. The next day brush the side and back teeth on one side. The next day move to the other side. You can work your way up to an entire mouth brushing in one sitting, eventually. Until that time, break the toothbrushing sessions into multiple times if it’s easier than trying to tackle his entire mouth in one sitting.

  • When you’re ready to move from a fingertip brush or your fingertip, invest in a toothbrush specifically designed for the size of your dog and her mouth. Put a pea-sized amount of dog toothpaste on the brush and gently brush his teeth.
  • Talk in a calm, soothing voice and praise your dog the entire time you’re brushing. If he gets anxious and tries to get away, let him and then you can pick up again later. Don’t force him to stay. Once the brushing session is over, play a fun game with your dog so he always equates brushing with fun after the brushing is done!
  • Choose a time of day when your dog is relaxed and calm. Don’t try to brush his teeth when he first wakes up and is dashing around the house burning off pent up energy. Trying to calm him then trying to brush his teeth right after could lead to his resenting toothbrushing time. If he’s calmest right before bedtime, snuggle up with him and make brushing his teeth as much a part of your routine as you do giving him belly rubs and scratches behind his ears.

If you have a dog who is truly uncooperative and simply won’t let you brush his teeth, don’t put yourself in harm’s way.  This can be the case with a dog that really does not want anything near their mouth, or even a puppy who is going through teething. Talk with your veterinarian and he or she can recommend toys and treats designed to help loosen and remove plaque and tartar.

Regular veterinarian visits and dental check-ups, coupled with your diligent brushing of your dog’s teeth, and an active dog insurance policy can be a great idea. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.