There are several things you can do to help keep your dog’s teeth in good shape. Start a dental care routine as early as possible in your dog’s life so he get used to the feeling of having his teeth brushed and inspected. Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth that typically fall out by about six months of age. By this time, your dog should be getting his teeth brushed regularly. If you decide to brush your dog’s teeth, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
1. NEVER brush your dog’s teeth with human toothpaste – it can make your dog sick! Use special enzymatic toothpaste made especially for dogs. The same goes for oral rinses.
2. Plaque begins to turn into tartar / calculus within 24-48 hours, so daily brushing is recommended. Work your dog’s tooth brushing into your own routine – consider brushing his teeth around the same time you do yours so it will be easier to remember.
3. Use a “finger brush” or special long toothbrush designed for use on dogs. When starting out with brushings, the finger brush can help ease your dog into it, as these do not feel as awkward as hard brushes.
4. Before you begin, ask your veterinarian to show you some techniques to make tooth brushing easier on you and your dog.
If you are not able to brush your dog’s teeth, there are other options. Consider using oral rinses made especially for dogs. You can also purchase special dental treats. Avoid real bones – not only can they lead to gastrointestinal upset, they may also cause tooth fractures.
Most of all: make sure you keep up with vet exams. From time to time, a professional dental cleaning may be recommended. This requires general anesthesia. During the procedure, your dog’s teeth and gums will be examined closely for problems. The teeth will then be scaled and polished. If dental problems are noted, tooth extractions could become necessary. Alternatively, you may be referred to a veterinary dentist for specialty procedures. Some dogs need dental cleanings one or more times per year, while others can go longer. Be certain to follow your vet’s recommendations. And remember, what you do at home can really make all the difference.