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How should my dog’s teeth look?

Failing to take care of your dog’s teeth can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and even serious infections of the bloodstream. Pet parents should prioritize their dog’s oral health to the same degree they’d take care of other physical health issues. 

Taking simple steps to improve your dog’s dental health as early in their life as possible will not only save your dog discomfort but will cost you less in the long run. The longer you leave it, the more expensive the procedures needed to correct your dog’s dental problems. 

What do healthy dog teeth look like?

Look at both your dog’s teeth and gums to assess their dental health. Their gums should be a healthy pink color, not overly red or inflamed. Their teeth should be white and clean. You can expect a slight yellowing in older dogs, but don’t confuse this with a buildup of plaque, as that isn’t normal at any age. There shouldn’t be a build-up of plaque or tartar around the gumline. This is a fairly common issue, however, and must be addressed to avoid gum disease and eventual tooth loss. 

How do I take care of my dog’s teeth?

If you don’t already have a dental hygiene routine for your dog, start now. It’s always best to start as early as possible, as your dog is less likely to have serious dental issues if you take care of their teeth from puppyhood. However, it’s never too late, so if you have a middle-aged or senior dog who has never had its teeth cared for, you can still improve its oral health by starting now. 

Most pet parents choose more than one method for taking care of their dog’s teeth to get the best results.

Tooth brushing

Brushing your dog’s teeth should be the first line of defense against plaque, tartar and gum disease. Daily brushing will stop most dental issues in their tracks. Most dogs will tolerate tooth brushing if you’re patient with them. Start slowly and give them a treat when you’re finished. You can use a conventional dog toothbrush or a finger toothbrush but always use dog toothpaste. Human toothpaste is unsafe for canines.

Dental supplements

Dental supplements take the form of powders or liquids that you add to food and water. They can help reduce the amount of plaque that sticks to the teeth, disrupt bacteria in the mouth and may soften plaque or tartar so you can more easily remove build-ups by brushing rather than professional cleaning. 

Dental treats

These edible treats or chews can help remove plaque from the teeth. While they aren’t hugely effective on their own, they’re great for dogs who simply won’t tolerate tooth brushing or used in addition to brushing teeth as an extra line of defense. 

Dental toys

Dental toys are chew toys that can scrape some plaque and tartar off the teeth as your dog chews. Like dental treats, they aren’t as effective as brushing but are useful in addition to brushing or paired with chews and supplements if your dog won’t accept having their teeth brushed.

When should I seek veterinary attention for my dog’s teeth?

If you notice any signs your dog is in dental pain, take them to see a vet right away. They may also need professional cleaning or even extraction if they have plaque and tartar build-up (especially around the gumline) or red, swollen or inflamed gums. Ideally, your dog should have an annual dental health check from their veterinarian to keep on top of anything you might miss and deal with issues before they get serious. 

What you need to take care of your dog’s teeth

Vetoquinol Enzadent Dual-Ended Dog & Cat Toothbrush

Vetoquinol Enzadent Dual-Ended Dog & Cat Toothbrush

This dual-ended toothbrush has one larger brush and one smaller brush to get into all those nooks and crannies, no matter the size of your dog.

Sold by Chewy

Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Vanilla Mint Flavored Dog Cat Toothpaste

Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Vanilla Mint Flavored Dog & Cat Toothpaste

This pet toothpaste contains enzymes that break down plaque for a superior clean. The vanilla mint flavor leaves your dog’s breath smelling fresh.

Sold by Chewy and Amazon

Whimzees Variety Pack Grain-Free Dental Dog Treats

Whimzees Variety Pack Grain-Free Dental Dog Treats

Not only do these dental chews clean teeth, reduce plaque and freshen breath, they also taste great, so dogs are eager to eat them. They come in a variety pack containing three shapes: toothbrushes, sticks and alligators.

Sold by Chewy and Amazon

Benebone Peanut Butter Flavor Dental Chew Toy

Benebone Peanut Butter Flavor Dental Chew Toy

Dogs who love to chew can chomp on this chew toy to clean their teeth while having fun. It can also help stop them chewing things they shouldn’t, like table legs or your favorite pair of shoes.

Sold by Chewy and Amazon

Bluestem Oral Care Original Flavored Dog Cat Dental Water Additive

Bluestem Oral Care Original Flavored Dog & Cat Dental Water Additive

Simply add this to your dog’s water according to the package directions to fight plaque and tartar and freshen breath.

Sold by Chewy and Amazon

ProDen PlaqueOff Powder

ProDen PlaqueOff Powder

Made from nothing but North American seaweed, this supplement fights plaque and tartar and softens it so it’s easier to brush off. You’ll start to see results in three to eight weeks.

Sold by Chewy and Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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