How to brush your pet’s teeth
What you need:
- A baby toothbrush or pet toothbrush that is an appropriate size for your pet (if your pet will not tolerate a toothbrush, a piece of washcloth wrapped around the finger is a good substitute).
- Pet toothpaste (DO NOT use human toothpaste to brush your pet’s teeth. It can upset your pet’s stomach if swallowed. Pet toothpaste is available in more appetizing flavors for your pet like poultry, beef, and fish.)
- Treat or other reward
The earlier your pet becomes accustomed to you touching his mouth and teeth, the better. Begin by simply touching the muzzle and work your way up to rubbing the gums and teeth. You can dip your finger in low-sodium chicken or beef broth (for dogs) or tuna juice (for cats) to help keep this activity enjoyable. Once your pet is comfortable with you touching his mouth, slowly introduce toothpaste and brushing. You should try to make brushing your pet’s teeth a bonding experience reinforced with plenty of praise and a tasty reward. It may take some time before your pet is comfortable with brushing, so be patient.
To introduce toothpaste, start slowly by putting a small amount on your finger and allowing your pet to smell or lick it. Once your pet is used to this, start putting a small amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush or washcloth. Brush your pet’s teeth along the gumline. Be gentle: you do not need to scrub. You can start out brushing for very short amounts of time to acclimate your pet. Eventually, you will want to work up to about 30 seconds per side.
If you are ever worried that your pet may bite while you are trying to brush his teeth, stop immediately. While toothbrushing remains the most effective option for at-home dental care, some pets simply will not tolerate it. Oral rinses, wipes, and dental chews might provide a less stressful alternative for your pet. Some rubber chew toys are also helpful in breaking up plaque.
If you notice any problems as you are brushing, like bleeding or inflamed gums or loose teeth, call your veterinarian.