Ahwatukee Animal Care Hospital

10855 South 48th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85048



picture of red dachshund

Brushing Your Pet's Teeth



Whenever we suggest clients brush their pet's teeth, we often receive looks that vary from the amused, to the incredulous, to the appalled.  Often these looks are accompanied by exclamations, such as,"Your kidding, right?", "No way!", "Are you serious?", or "How in the world do you do that?".  The idea of  trying to get Buffy to "open wide" seems impossible, let alone getting a toothbrush in that mouth and scrubbing away!  No worries, we can help.

Just in case you are picturing the same morning and bedtime routine of tooth brushing we humans practice, erase that image.  We humans use toothpastes that advertise whiteners, mouthwashes, and fluoride; however, when you get down to basics, human toothpaste is primarily a scrubbing compound to physically remove food particles from the teeth.  Then, we floss to remove particles from the crevices between the teeth. Brushing our teeth takes a lot of effort.  Brushing your pet's teeth is different.

The toothpastes that are designed for pets contain enzymes that are designed to remain in contact with the teeth after the application, dissolving away the plaque and loose tartar before it becomes hard and invades the gums.  For pets, brushing the teeth is not as important as simply applying the toothpaste to the teeth.

Unlike when we humans brush, we don't worry about brushing or applying the toothpaste on the inside surface of the teeth.  Your pet's tongue motion does a pretty good job of removing food particles on the inside surface of his or her teeth.  The most important surfaces on which to apply the toothpaste are the outside surfaces of the upper teeth, especially the upper teeth towards the back of the mouth. The main salivary duct enters right next to the largest chewing teeth, and minerals in the saliva are responsible for turning plaque into hard tartar.  That is why we find the most tartar, periodontal disease and abscessed teeth in the large teeth in the side and back of the mouth.

Dogs, cats, and some of our other exotic pets develop dental problems even more frequently than humans.  Dental disease is the single most widespread health problem in pets.  Good oral hygiene will add an average of three years of healthy life to the time you have with your pet.  So, yes it is time to get out that toothbrush!  We will be happy to demonstrate brushing techniques, just give us a call and set up a consultation.

Some common questions clients have about brushing their pets' teeth include:

What toothpaste should I use?

Do NOT use human toothpaste. Repeat - It is important not to use human toothpaste.  Human toothpastes smells and tastes much too strong for pets to tolerate.  Further, human toothpaste does not have residual effects.  Pet toothpastes, that contain enzymes, should be utilized. CET toothpaste is the most common veterinary brand of enzymatic pet dentifrice.  At Ahwatukee Animal Care Hospital, we stock pet toothpastes in our retail area or you can purchase products via our online store.  Your veterinarian can recommend the right product for your pet.

How do I actually brush or apply my pet's teeth?

For large dogs, toothpaste can be applied with a regular toothbrush; however, the typical brush is too big for most small dogs and cats.  There are small, "finger brushes" available that slip over the owner's fingertip and allow easy application of toothpaste to the teeth. Some clients use a gaze sponge wrapped over the finger in a similar fashion.  Some people use a baby toothbrush.  Perhaps the easiest method is to simply apply a dab of enzymatic toothpaste to your fingertip and slide it into the mouth, feeling your way along and between the teeth and cheek.  Caution: be careful because those teeth are sharp!  Another method for applying toothpaste is through the use of a small rawhide chew coated with the toothpaste. As the dog chews the treat, he or she is also brushing his or her own teeth.  Our retail area is stocked with pet toothbushes, dental diet foods, and dental treats.

How often should I brush my pet's teeth?

For the best results, brush your pet's teeth daily or every two days.  If you are unable to brush that frequently, even brushing once a week helps.  The enzymes in the pet toothpaste continue to be releases for up to 48 hours.  Any brushing you do is definitely worth the effort. When we do our yearly dental examinations, cleaner teeth are obvious on pets whose owners make oral care a weekly ritual.

Please visit our How To Videos page to watch a short video about brushing your pet's teeth.

Please visit the following links for more information about dental care for your pet:

Dental Care and Diets Pet Dentistry: Oral and Dental Care
Dental Disease in Dogs Dental Cleaning in Cats

Call today to schedule your pet's yearly dental examination and his or her yearly professional dental cleaning!

This article is not a replacement for a veterinary consultation. If you have concerns or questions regarding your pet's health or care, please call us today to schedule an appointment (480) 893-0533.