A person is performing dog teeth cleaning by brushing a dog's teeth with dog toothpaste.

Dog Teeth Cleaning: How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth


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Dog teeth cleaning sounds difficult, right? Happily, dogs love human attention, so with a bit of know-how on to brush your dog’s teeth you can keep your canine’s canines in top shape. Enter dog toothpaste and toothbrush…

If you’re reading this and you’ve never brushed your doggo’s teeth, you’re not alone. Many pet parents don’t. However, the consequences can be gnarly. And expensive. And aren’t exactly the type of situation you can remedy after with a DIY fix up. Here’s what you need to know to get your dog teeth cleaning regime up to scratch.

A poster with a picture of a dog's mouth showcasing a canine dental chart.

How dog teeth cleaning helps

First and foremost, dog teeth cleaning helps when your pooch walks up and gives you a slobbery kiss. This is surely an end in and of itself? For it not to smell like the kiss of death (too harsh … okay, the kiss of toilet water).

Then again, the real bonus of cleaning doggo’s teeth is their dental health and their health in general. Healthy teeth play an integral role in your dog’s natural behaviours, from tugging and playing to eating.

Bad dog breath is not just unpleasant, it can be a real problem for your pup. Bad dental hygiene leads to a build-up of the sticky bacteria known as plaque. Which in turn leads to bacterial overload, decay and dental disease. Dental disease is common in dogs. Which is why a proactive approach can save your pup serious pain down the road.

Dog dental disease

Gingivitis, gum disease, a tooth abscess, rotting teeth and tooth loss are some of the problems that may result from poor dog dental hygiene. But there’s a second layer of grief that can come of neglecting our doggo’s teeth.

Harmful bacteria that survive in the mouth can spread to other areas of the body via the bloodstream. This is how poor dental hygiene can cause problems with the liver, heart and kidneys to name a few. Of course, it can add to cat and dog bad breath too!

A Golden Retriever wearing a red bandanna

How to clean a dog’s teeth

Any parent knows how nerve-wracking it can be to brush your squirming child’s teeth. It’s understandable you might be nervy about dog teeth cleaning. Not to worry though, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Like any new lesson, from toilet training your puppy to implementing easy puppy training tips, you’ll need patience.

Once you’ve bought a dog toothbrush and toothpaste, follow these steps as many times as you need to:

  1. Contact with teeth. Start by getting your dog used to you touching their teeth whenever they’re calm.
  2. Location. Choose a comfortable spot with good lighting and make sure your dog is relaxed. Get a puppy play session in beforehand to burn up excess energy and help pooch feel calm.
  3. Timing. Select a time of day that can become your routine brushing time. Dogs do well with routine as they know what to expect.
  4. Toothpaste. Get your dog used to the taste of the toothpaste with a blob on your finger.
  5. Toothbrush. Gently place the toothbrush (with a bit of toothpaste) on your pup’s teeth.
  6. Brush. Once the previous steps have been tried out several times and you’re ready, brush in small circular motions.
  7. Reward! Even if you don’t get to do a full brush the first time (no one does), be sure to praise and pet your pup after every brush

You can repeat each step again and again over a few days so you’re both ready and confident. Once you manage to brush their teeth, aim for a two minute brushing session per day. Ideally after both meals.

Pup will soon come to know what to expect and that nothing heinous will come of it. Then it can even become a chance to bond.

A dog is being petted by a person on a couch after a session of dog teeth cleaning.

Dog teeth cleaning: Tricks to brushing your dog’s teeth

Not all dogs will tolerate having their teeth brushed, at least not as fast as you’re hoping for. If it’s not going well and you need some added tips on dog teeth cleaning, try out the following:

Tasty toothpaste

Look for a toothpaste your dog loves the flavour of. (Dogs love food, so once they love their toothpaste, they’re less likely to object to it in their mouth)

Teeth and gums

The whole toothbrush thing can seem like an alien to a dog. If it’s not working as planned, try ‘brushing’ using your finger and some toothpaste for a while


Amp it up gradually and wrap your finger in some gauze as a path toward using a toothbrush. The gauze has a lower level of friction than a toothbrush but will still do a bit of cleaning

Positive reinforcement

Reward not punishment is your key to all things good with your pet. So be encouraging and ladle on the love around the toothbrush, the toothpaste and each step of the process

Watch this video for more tips on getting your dog comfortable with toothbrushing:

Dog dental care

Ideally your dog should have their teeth checked during every visit to the vet. Your vet can make sure both teeth and gums are healthy and nip any problems in the bud.

At the very least, even if you’re a dog teeth cleaning pro, take your pup in for an annual dental check up. Your vet can advise you if and when it’s time for doggo to have a professional deep clean.

How to clean dog teeth without brushing?

You can’t really forego toothbrushing. However, you can supplement brushing teeth with a holistic approach to dog dental care.

Here are some options:


Chat to your vet about the ideal diet to cultivate your dog’s long term dental health. They can recommend what food will provide the best nutritional value for your pup’s age, size, breed and lifestyle.

Diet plays a crucial role in our dog’s health. Even though it’s technically ‘food’ rather than ‘medicine’, the value of the right diet is not to be underestimated.  In fact, it’s being called the fifth vital sign – a nutrition assessment developed as part of a routine veterinary pet health check. Check it out, here: Why the Fifth Vital Sign is Key to Pet Nutrition.

Water additives

Water additives for dogs teeth are special products you can mix into your dog’s water. They’re designed to improve your pet’s health in various ways. Pick and additive that’s designed to help with dental care by reducing plaque and tartar build-up.

Dog teeth cleaning with dental chews

Dental chews remove plaque and tartar buildup on the surface of the teeth. They use your dog’s own chewing action to remove bacteria through abrasion. Plus, they’re treats which means they’re no fuss to get your dog to do some of his own dog teeth cleaning.

Speaking of chews, check out our Dog Chew Toy Awards for our top pup chew picks!

This dog's diet supplements dog teeth cleaning.

PS: Have you ever heard of dog braces? They aren’t for cosmetic purposes, they’re to help pups with uncomfortable, painful, or dangerous orthodontic issues. Find out more here.

Dental cover with pet insurance

Treating serious dental conditions can be costly – which is why it’s so important to have a good pet insurance plan to offer you a soft landing.

Does your pet insurance cover dental? It’s worth checking out our piece “Pet Dental Insurance: What’s Covered and What’s Not?” for more on this.

PD Insurance’s Deluxe dog insurance and cat insurance policy includes cover (up to the defined benefit limit) for:

  • Abscesses
  • Gingivitis
  • Tooth removal where medically required, for:

– Cavities
– Tooth fracture
– Dental disease as a result of infection
– Retained deciduous teeth

Why not get a quick quote today? We’re pretty sure our rates will leave you with a toothy grin.

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