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Let's Talk About...Teeth Hygiene

Should you brush your dog's teeth? Is a professional cleaning worth it? What can I do at home to help my dog's breath? Keep reading for the answers to these questions and more.

Buccee's teeth
Say "Aw"


*This post is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any ailments you or your dog may have. I am not a medical professional; the only medical advice I can give is to see your veterinarian. Any questions or concerns you may have regarding your dog's health need to be directed to a licensed veterinarian.



Should You Brush Your Dog's Teeth?


The short answer: yes! In a perfect world, you would brush your dog's teeth every day, just like you do your own (hopefully). In reality, most people - myself included - don't have the time, energy, or inclination to brush their dog's teeth every day. Some dogs never get their teeth brushed, and they are just fine. Could their breath be better? Of course! Even if you only occasionally brush your dog's teeth, it's still better than never brushing them. Brushing is also a good way to bond with your dog!


Dental Treats: Yes or No?


It depends on the treat. Just like with all treats, you want to make sure you're giving your dog something healthy. Just because it says it will give them fresh breath doesn't mean it won't upset their tummy. Also, be aware of size: too big and tough, and your dog could crack a tooth on the treat; too small and your dog could swallow it whole and choke.


There are also toys that are supposed to help clean your dog's teeth. They can be rubber or crochet. The rubber toys usually have "spikes" that poke and rub your dog's teeth and gums when they chew on them, helping prevent tartar build-up. Toys that are crocheted worked by allowing your dog's tooth to go through the tiny hole so the yarn can wrap around the tooth, acting almost like floss. Either are fine to use under supervision. Remember, a super chewer can tear the rubber apart and swallow it, and the crocheted toys can come apart and be swallowed or get stuck in your dog's teeth, irritating their gums (and driving them crazy).


If you're worried about bad breath, you can get some treats specifically meant to help with that. You can also get additives for your dog's water. However, in my opinion the water additives don't work well enough for the amount of effort you have to put in to cleaning their water bowl (the additive can leave a film) and readding the additive. If you've used an additive and had a different experience, let me know in the comments!


Is Professional Cleaning Worth It?


In my opinion, yes. Most dogs begin developing tartar (the hard brown stuff at the base of the tooth) around age five. Once they hit that age, I recommend having your vet check them out. If the vet thinks they look ok, great! You can wait a while. If not, start talking about a professional cleaning. Ideally, professional cleanings should be done every two years. However, that will depend on your dog and how much care you give their teeth (do you brush daily, weekly, or never?).


So, What Do I Do?


With Bella, I try to brush her teeth weekly. Whenever she gets a bath, she gets her teeth brushed as well. Afterward, she's given her "bath treat," which takes her a while to eat and so offers the added bonus of some mental stimulation. When I found Bella, the vet guessed her age at five, because she was just beginning to develop tartar. Her teeth weren't too bad, so I waited a few years to get her first professional cleaning. I plan to have her teeth cleaned every two years, as recommended by my vet.


Just FYI, after the cleaning, your dog's teeth will be tender (even more so if they had to have teeth extracted). After Bella's dental, I gave her pumpkin (just plain; NOT pie filling) and soaked her kibble in warm water until it was soft. The pumpkin helps with any stomach upset leftover from anesthesia or pain and is a nice little treat for doing such a great job with the surgery.


 

Bonus Info: Many people think a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. This is not true. There are two main reasons people think this: a swab from a dog's mouth does not react to penicillin the same way a swab from a human's mouth does; and dogs tend to heal faster than humans, supposedly because they lick their wounds, which introduces good bacteria to the wound.


In regard to the swab, this happens simply because dogs have different bacteria in their mouths than humans do. They have different systems, eat different things, and drink different things (that puddle may look clean, but...). The bacteria in their mouth is not going to react the same way bacteria from a human's mouth will.


As for the licking of the wounds, dogs do tend to heal faster because they lick their wounds. However, it's because of blood, not good bacteria. Licking promotes blood flow; blood flow speeds recovery.


Again, I am neither a medical professional nor a scientist (science was actually my worst subject in school). The Bonus Info gathered above is simply based on my own research. I suggest you do some research yourself, including asking your vet any questions you have regarding your dog's mouth health.


 

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