The love we feel when our cute little puppy lick us on our faces, but to some people, it may also feel like they’re smearing crap at the same time (not because thy enjoy licking themselves down south).
Like us, the food they consume (carbohydrates and processed foods are usually the main culprits) will cause the formation of plague. As plague crystallizes and hardens, tartar is formed. When that happens, brushing alone will not be able to remove the tartar. If allowed to form further, tartar will cause inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis.
Left unchecked, the bacteria will damage the tooth and this is when your dog will show symptoms of bad breath (I mean REALLY bad breath), receding gums and tooth decay. In very serious cases, the bacteria from the tooth decay may cause infection of the nose, eyes and even the brain.
We have to brush our teeth twice a day and the only difference between us and dogs is that their teeth are spaced further apart and they don’t eat as much junk as we do, but still brushing still needs to be a part of their grooming regiment.
It’s a one way street
Besides, if the tooth is already damaged, extraction is usually the only solution. And because poor dental hygiene affects the whole set of teeth, many of the serious cases sent for dental scaling and extraction goes home with only a few remaining teeth. That is why, protect your pet’s teeth before irreversible damage is done!
Besides, little to people know that tooth diseases have a deep impact on the overall health of the body. There is an increasing evidence proving that tooth diseases causes bacteria to enter the bloodstream causing damage to other organs. Just do a quick search periodontal disease and its effects on the body and you be the judge.
So if your dog’s breath smells like death, it’d be a good idea to book an appointment with your vet to have your pup’s teeth checked first.
Prevention is better than… actually prevention is the only way
Luckily, there are products in the market to make this easier, ranging from water additives, to mouth rinse, sprays and gels that you can use without the need for brushing. Then again, I do not like the idea of adding anything to drinking water (although all dental products are safe to ingest, but I believe water is essential to cleanse the system and nothing should be added to hinder the process), so if you really have to use non-brushing methods, I would recommend gels where you can spread with your fingers. Why? From experience, if your dog refuses to let you have their teeth brushed, you’re not going to get a lot of luck with sprays and mouth wash either.
Alternatively, you can use natural seaweed food additives that can be sprinkled on your pet’s food like ProDen PlagueOff. The supplement alters the saliva and prevents plague from adhering to the teeth.
Why I still prefer brushing and how to do it
Finally there’s the age-old method of brushing their teeth that is fast, cheaper and highly effective.
If your dog tends to be on the playful side or refuses to let you do anything at all, I would recommend you to start with more gentle grooming activities like brushing their coat or ear cleaning first.
During this phase, frequently meddle with their mouth – massage their gums, pry open their lips to look at their teeth, start with just the front lips and slowly proceed day by day until your dog lets you stretch their lips to see the rear molars.
You should even let them taste a little of the pet toothpaste. Most of them are flavoured and dogs love the taste! My dogs treats their tooth brushing session as a reward session, jumping wildly when they see that I’m grabbing the tube of toothpaste.
My best advice with difficult, active dogs, be firm and don’t give up. Reward when they comply and be firm and reprimand when they don’t.
One step at a time
To get them accustomed to the sensation of brushing, you can try any of the following methods and adjust accordingly depending on how well your dog accepts it. Suggestions are listed in ascending order with (1) being the least stressful:
- Brush their teeth with just your finger and nothing else.
- Wrap your index finger with a thin cloth and brush their teeth.
- Pet finger brush.
- Using a proper toothbrush. Personally I use baby toothbrush for small dogs and normal adult toothbrushes for medium to large dogs. There’s really no need to get pet toothbrushes or those fancy “3-way” toothbrushes.
For every method that you try, do not attempt to brush their full set of teeth unless your pup allows it. Start slow, bit by bit and slowly increase the duration and area covered every day. There is no need to clean the inside of the teeth, as plague mostly forms on the outside and the insides are taken care of when they lick off the toothpaste.
Remember to reward and reprimand accordingly and try to end the training session with a reward. That means that if your pet struggles, wait until he calms down, revert back to a shorter duration or less stressful method and reward the well behaviour and continue the next day.
Call me old-fashioned, but given that plague is a sticky biofilm that clings firmly on the teeth and surrounding plague, I’m still quite critical of how well non-brushing products would work and even if they do, I wonder what effects they may cause if ingested in the long term, even if they claim to be “Natural”.
As for toothpaste, I choose enzymatic toothpaste as they continue to work even after brushing by inhabiting bacterial growth and at least I know that they’re derived from milk.
If you really want to control what goes into your toothpaste, you can mix 2 tbs of baking soda, a teeny bit of olive oil and 1/4 tsp of broth to taste and mix it into a paste. If you want, you can add some chopped parsley or basil into it to freshen their breath and to fight inflammation.
Remember, be it commercial toothpaste or home-made ones, a tiny bit goes a long way. I don’t like the idea of them swallowing toothpaste and baking soda is a source of sodium, so you’ll have to watch that too.
How about starting your pup on that dental regime today? Don’t forget to comment on the problems you are facing as well as your suggestions! Finally, please share this if you find this useful!