For humans, it is a habit: We brush our teeth morning and evening, use dental floss, mouthwash and other products to keep the mouth clean and fresh. In recent years, the importance of good oral health for the dog has also become more and more noticed. Just as the dog's anatomy has changed since it was a wolf, so has the need to take care of the mouth - otherwise it can lead to long-lasting and painful conditions. In this article we will focus on the adult dog's dental health and cover how to best take care of your dog's mouth to prevent the most common problems.
What does the dog's mouth and teeth look like?
An adult dog normally has 42 teeth - 20 in the upper jaw and 22 in the lower jaw. The teeth are divided into:
incisors (front teeth)
canine teeth (fangs)
premolars (anterior molars)
molars (posterior molars)
Normally, the dog should have all its permanent teeth at about 6 months of age, and by then also shed its baby teeth. Larger breeds usually change teeth earlier and small breeds slightly later. Sometimes problems can arise in connection with the tooth change, but feel free to read more about it and the puppy's teeth here.
The structure of the tooth is similar to humans: in the core a soft pulp with nerves and blood vessels, then a layer of dentin and finally a hard layer of enamel that protects the tooth. Dogs' teeth can have one, two or three roots, depending on where in the mouth they are located.
The most common dental condition - plaque and tartar
By far the most common problem with our dogs' oral health is the formation of plaque and tartar. Plaque is a bacterial coating that is formed on the dog's teeth, and is caused by both the dog's natural oral flora and diet. When plaque mixes with minerals in saliva, it hardens and builds up, eventually becoming tartar. Once the tartar has formed, the surface of the tooth becomes rough, and it becomes easier for new tartar to attach and form.
Tartar can form quickly if it is not prevented with proper care of your dog's mouth. Almost all dogs get tartar problems at some point in their lives. However small breeds or breeds with short noses are clearly overrepresented, and they also often get problems at a younger age, some as early as one year. Tartar can leads in the long run to a worse problem - tooth loss or periodontitis as it is also called, and the process can be fast.
Which toothbrush should I use?
The most important action, to keep tartar away, is by far to brush your dog's teeth. This is especially important for small or medium-sized dog breed, as these dogs more often, and at an earlier age, suffer from tooth loss. There are special toothbrushes adapted for the dog's mouth, but a soft baby toothbrush also works well. For dogs that have a small mouth or have difficulty accepting the toothbrush, there are also small finger tooth brushes you can thread over your index finger and use to rub gently against teeth and gums. For the really experienced dog, it is excellent to also use an electric toothbrush!
What kind of toothpaste is best?
Dog toothpastes are available with both active enzymes and antimicrobial properties, and a big advantage is that they are flavored, which can make the dog actually enjoy the activity of tooth brushing. The most important effect, however, is not the toothpaste, but the actual brushing against the teeth. This is what keeps the coating (plaque) away and the surface of the tooth clean. Do not use fluoride toothpaste, as this is toxic to dogs. In other words - do not share your toothpaste with your doggo! 🐶
How often do I have to brush my teeth?
In order for toothbrushing to have an effect, the teeth should preferably be brushed every day, so it is best to try to find a fun routine around the toothbrushing. Getting it done every day can seem overwhelming when getting started, especially if the dog does not like it. Then you can aim at every other / every third day, but if it becomes less frequent than that, there is a risk that the plaque has already taken hold, affected the tooth surface or caused an irritation in the gums.
How do I get started with brushing my dog's teeth?
When you are getting started, it is best not to be in a hurry i - do not think that you should brush every tooth in your dog's mouth the first time. Divide it into smaller, shorter training sessions and start with the teeth that are easiest to access - usually the dog's small front teeth and canines. When the dog gets used to it and it goes well, you can slowly but surely try to access further back in the mouth, around the dog's molars. You can also divide so that you, for example, take the right side of the mouth one day and the left side the next, if the dog doesn't have patience to get the whole mouth brushed at once.
It is much better to take a little at a time and create a positive feeling around the toothbrushing, than to push the dog too hard. Remember to praise and reward a lot! If you search on Youtube, there are several informative videos with tips on how to get started with training around toothbrushing.
The routine around toothbrushing is not only good for the toothbrushing itself, but because you also get the dog used to handling its mouth. You will also learn what the dog's mouth looks like when it is healthy, and can then more easily detect any issues such as tooth fractures, missing teeth or epulids.
When can I start brushing the dog's teeth?
It is good to start getting your dog used to handling of the mouth already as a puppy, but remember to take it carefully so that it does not cause discomfort. Especially while the puppy is changing teeth (4-6 months), the mouth can be sore and sensitive. During this time, you do not need to focus on toothbrushing, but more handling training and the habit of, for example, lifting the lips and opening the mouth. Read more in our article about puppies here.
2. Dental sticks
In addition to toothbrushing, various forms of chewing bones and dental sticks can have a positive impact on your dog's dental health. Chewing is good for keeping the tartar away, keeping teeth and gums in trim and satisfying the dog's mental need to chew. It is the gnawing and rubbing against the tooth surface that gives the good effect on the tartar. As such, try to find chews that give your dog a challenge and take more than just a few seconds to consume.
Many different types of chews and bones are good, but so-called dental sticks are specially developed to keep the teeth healthy and come with properties that are extra beneficial. The most important property is that they are developed with special fibers in the consistency that will give an increased chewing resistance and a brushing effect on the tooth.
Our dental sticks with insects have special fibers in the shell for a brushing effect, and do also contain other specific ingredients that have a positive effect on dental health:
🗿 Sodium hexametaphosphate: Helps your dog to preserve his teeth from the formation of tartar.
🍊 Vitamin C: Helps inhibit the growth of bacterial plaque.
🦷 Zinc chelate: Supports healthy teeth and gums.
🌱 Mint and parsley: In the filling for a fresh breath.
Our dental sticks are developed for adult dogs, and we recommend one stick per day. If you have a small dog, you can split the dental stick in smaller pieces or serve it on several occasions.
What should I avoid to protect my dog's teeth?
Do not give the dog too hard bones, such as marrow bones. These can cause damage or cracks to the dog's teeth. This is especially important for young dogs.
Do not allow the dog to carry stones or other hard/heavy objects.
Do not let the dog gnaw on tennis balls, as the material in them is surprisingly rought and wears on the dog's teeth.
There are several supplements for dogs with ingredients that claims they will prevent tartar, such as powders to mix with the food or additives to the dog's water. Unfortunately, these products give far from the same good effect as toothbrushing and dental sticks do for the dog's dental health, and should therefore never replace these routines.
What should I do if my dog already has tartar?
If you want to get started brushing your dog's teeth but your dog already has tartar, it is better to start by booking a visit with your veterinarian to get a professional tooth cleaning for your dog. Then you have healthy teeth to start brushing, which are easier to keep clean. You can not brush away tartar that is already stuck, and do not try to scrape it off yourself! This can cause scratches and cracks in the enamel that both damage the tooth and make the surface rough, which instead makes it easier for the tartar to attach. You can also get advice from your veterinarian about your dog's oral status and if your dog has gingival pockets where you should be extra careful with toothbrushing, or if it is at risk of tooth loss or oral disease.
We hope these dental tips have been of value and wish you good luck - healthy and strong teeth means a healthy and happy doggo! 🐶🦷