Dog Teeth Cleaning: How To Do It And Why It Matters

Written By
Reviewed by
Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM
5 min read

Updated - Oct 15th, 2022

Maintaining the cleanliness of your dog’s teeth is a critical part of dog dental health. Whether your dog already has a healthy set of pearly whites or is struggling with puppy plaque, there’s never a wrong time to clean your dog’s teeth.

If you’re wondering how dog teeth cleaning works and where to start, you’re in the right place. Let’s dig in!

Why is dog teeth cleaning important?

Many pet parents tend to neglect their dog’s dental care until a problem like periodontal disease arises, yet, cleaning their teeth is one of the most effective ways to prevent this very problem. When we humans brush our teeth, we know that this is a necessary step to protect our gums and teeth. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize that dog dental health isn’t much different – dogs can experience gum disease just like we do.

What’s more, some dogs are good at hiding mouth pain, so you might not realize there’s a problem until the pain becomes extremely uncomfortable for them. This is why it’s important to take your dog to a veterinarian for regular checkups to make sure you stop any problems in their tracks. Dog teeth cleaning can help prevent serious dental diseases, and even organ damage and blood infections that can occur if bacteria from infected gums enters the bloodstream.

How to clean your dog’s teeth

Now that we’ve established the importance of cleaning your dog’s pearly whites, here are some tips for getting started with dog teeth cleaning. 

1. Brush Daily!

Though it might seem intimidating at first, the more often you brush your dog’s teeth, the better. There are toothbrushes and toothpastes specifically designed for dog teeth cleaning, and you can try out different options to figure out what suits your dog best. Try out longer toothbrushes with soft bristles, finger brushes, and flavored toothpastes. Veterinarians recommend that you brush once a day, but if you can’t brush that frequently, try to at least brush every three days, as it takes 72 hours for plaque (buildup on teeth that is easy to remove) to turn into tartar (hard buildup that can only be removed by a veterinarian). Whenever you’re brushing their coat, make a habit of brushing their teeth as well. If your dog’s mouth is too small for a brush, you can also wrap a dental wipe around your finger and wipe their teeth.

2. Chew Toys

If you want to kill two squeaky birds with one stone, let your dog chew on a toy. Chewing is the most natural way to promote dog teeth cleaning, as gnawing scrapes off plaque from their teeth. Rotating different toys is a good idea; it engages dogs’ natural instincts and keeps it fresh and interesting! Here’s one chew toy designed specifically for dental health, but there are so many others that you can try out!


3. Dog Dental Chews

If you want to take dog teeth cleaning a step further, level up your dog’s average chew toy with a dental chew! Dental chews (like Greenies, for example) help your dog clean their own teeth, as they’re made with tasty ingredients that minimize build-up of plaque. They even come in different shapes and sizes that allow dogs to really dig into hard-to-reach spaces beneath their pearly whites. It’s best if your dog chews on a dental treat for 5-10 minutes to clean their gums thoroughly. 

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4. Dog dental spray

While tooth brushing is the best way to promote oral health, dog dental sprays are a quick and easy way to take care of your dog’s teeth when you don’t have time to brush. These sprays kill plaque-causing bacteria and freshen up that breath! Try spraying your pup’s teeth and gums or their favorite toy. Here’s one spray that’s recommended for dogs as well as cats.

5. When in doubt, call your vet

Most veterinarians offer professional dog teeth cleanings to identify and treat any dental problems. A dental checkup is recommended once or twice a year for most dogs.

If your dog requires a professional dental cleaning, then your veterinarian will let you know and schedule a cleaning for your dog. During your dog’s dental procedure, your vet will likely run blood work to determine if your dog’s health is safe for anesthesia. During the dental procedure, the vet will also take dental x-rays of your dog’s mouth to determine whether they need any further dental treatments. During a professional cleaning, veterinarians use special tools that remove plaque and tartar buildup in places that may go undetected by regular brushing, including below the gum line. They will also polish your dog’s teeth and in some cases and apply fluoride. Sometimes, tooth extractions are required for diseased teeth, and in these cases, your dog may go home with antibiotics and medication to control pain. 


The bottom line

Dental health is key to helping your pup live a happy and healthy life. When it comes to your dog’s dental health, developing a regular teeth cleaning routine is the best way to prevent dental disease and keep their tail wagging. 

In the event that dental disease does strike, it can help to have pet insurance with dental coverage. That’s why Pumpkin’s dog insurance plans can help pay for veterinary visits, x-rays, and medications, with no sneaky add-on fees, when they’re used to treat illnesses like gum disease. 

*Pumpkin Pet Insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For full terms, visit pumpkin.care/insurancepolicy.Products, discounts, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Pumpkin Insurance Services Inc. (Pumpkin) (NPN#19084749) is a licensed insurance agency, not an insurer. Insurance is underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company (NAIC #21113. Morristown, NJ), a Crum & Forster Company and produced by Pumpkin. Pumpkin receives compensation based on the premiums for the insurance policies it sells. For more details visit pumpkin.care/underwriting-information and pumpkin.care/insurance-licenses.

Rachel Carp

Rachel is a copywriter and the favorite aunt of an adorable Cockapoo named Bentley.
Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM
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