Do you know how to clean a dog’s mouth? Dental health is vital to preventing many extremely common diseases, such as periodontitis. Yet, it is one of the most neglected aspects of our dog’s care. Simply put, the canine mouth should never be ignored since irreversible damage can already occur by the time they turn two. So let’s look at all the steps to really keeping a dog’s mouth healthy.
How To Clean a Dog’s Mouth: 10 Easy Steps
There are basic steps to keeping a dog’s mouth pristine. One is to get rid of the bad bacteria with a reliable doggy mouthwash and other oral disinfectants that kill the bad bacteria that cause inflammation.
We all know that dog mouths are very unhygienic but are they really dirtier than humans? Read here to find out.
The other is by physically removing as much plaque as possible by brushing the teeth daily and by regularly having a vet professionally scale and polish the teeth.
So with this in mind, here are the regular steps you can take to keep up your dog’s oral maintenance.
Step 1: Pay Attention To Your Dog’s Breed, Health, And Age
Small breed dogs such as the Maltese and short-nosed breeds (brachycephalic breeds) such as the pug are more prone to dental disease and tooth decay. This is because:
- of the structure of their mouth and skull,
- the tendency to have more overcrowded teeth,
- and because they live longer than larger breeds, giving their teeth more time to deteriorate.
- Smaller breeds also tend to drink less water, which washes away bacteria,
- and small dogs produce less saliva that destroys some of the bad bacteria that cause plaque.
- Another reason tooth decay is a bigger problem for small breeds is that pet parents are more likely to feed their little dogs wet food.
Collies are also more prone to tooth problems than other dogs. Dogs with health issues like diabetes and weakened immune systems or seniors generally need far more dental maintenance than usual. So firstly, always be aware of whether your dog needs more regular dental checkups and more stringent oral health care.
Step 2: Feed hard Or Abrasive Food
Commercial dry food has issues, but a dry food diet does scrape off far more plaque and calculus from the teeth than wet or canned food. Pet parents who prefer a balanced raw diet can achieve the same effect with large bones. In fact, in one study, Beagles given large cow cortical bones and squamous femur bones lost up to 90% of the dental calculus on their teeth, making bones a very effective natural way to keep the mouth free of too much plaque.
- However, always be sure to be responsible with bones. Remember to:
- choose brittle bones that splinter,
- avoid letting them chew too long as it wears down their teeth,
- and remove any bones that are small enough to swallow.
Remember, excess calcium from too much bone matter can also cause issues such as constipation and kidney stones.
Step 3: How To Clean A Dog’s Mouth with Chew Toys
Regular chewies such as rawhide or oxtail significantly reduce dental calculus in dogs, just like bones. So they are a great alternative to bones for those of us who are still nervous about the potential risks. Even appropriate rubber chews can go a long way in scraping off the plaque.
Step 4: Provide Dental Chews
Dental treats contain specialized compounds such as Sodium hexametaphosphate (HMP) that prevent calcium from hardening the plaque on the teeth. Adding in a few Greenies or other approved chews can disrupt plaque build-up. They tend to be swallowed rather quickly, though, so they are not sufficient for a dog’s oral health on their own.
Step 5: Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Daily
Perhaps the most crucial step to maintaining perfect oral cleanliness is to make sure you use a special dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste and brush once a day. Brushing a dog’s teeth is just like brushing your own. Lift the lip and run the bristles over the teeth in a circular motion until the toothpaste makes a lather. Try to get into tricky areas like the back of the mouth and between the molars.
For best results, start a dental care regimen on your dog when they are still a puppy.
Step 6: Use A Mouth Rinse In Their Drinking Water
To kill the bacteria in the mouth that causes infections, it’s best to find ways to regularly disinfect your dog’s mouth. There are a variety of sprays and spritzes on the market, but the easiest way to do this is just to add a natural and safe dog mouth rinse to their drinking water. Not only does this kill the bacteria and was it away, but it’s a great breath freshener. If your dog has problems with bad breath, read here for help. Mouth rinses are also great if you’re wondering how to clean dog teeth without brushing.
Step 7: Have Your Dog’s Mouth Professionally Cleaned
Regardless of your daily upkeep, it’s still essential that you see your vet at least once a year for dental scaling. A vet should conduct a full oral exam to determine if there is any sign of periodontal disease, gingivitis, or cavities. Remember that periodontal disease can only be diagnosed with an X-ray.
Your vet may then conduct a complete oral cleaning. This involves teeth scaling to remove plaque and calculus and polishing to make it harder for plaque to grow in the future.
It is not advisable to try dental cleanings with online dental scalers yourself since polishing is essential to this process. Your vet will also be able to check for any abnormalities that need further treatment.
Thus vet recommended teeth cleaning is an unavoidable part of your dog’s upkeep. Most dogs only need to go once a year, but those more prone to tooth issues may need to go every six months.
Step 8: Give Your Dog Probiotics
Some dental chews and supplements also contain vital good bacteria that help eliminate the bad bacteria that cause infection. These can come in a dog chewie. Probiotics strains that help keep teeth clean include:
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Ligilactobacillus salivarius
Step 9: Feed Your Dog Dental Prescription Diets
Suppose your dog has particularly bad dental issues. In that case, you can speak to your vet about a prescription diet that is specially formulated to help their teeth. Good options include:
Hill’s PRESCRIPTION DIET t/d Dog Food
This food makes use of a fiber matrix and particular kibble size and shape meant to scrape off tartar and plaque. Its blend of antioxidants also helps fight inflammation. You also get a mini version of this food for little breeds.
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets DH Formula
This is another prescription food that relies on the crunchy texture of the kibble to get rid of plaque and tartar. It also contains a blend of antioxidants to reduce inflammation in the gums.
Royal Canine Oral Care
This is one of the best foods for a clean mouth as it is a high-protein diet that also relies on texture to mechanically break down tartar. However, it also contains an “Active Dental Agent” (calcium chelators) that stops calcium from mineralizing the plaque and causing hard calculus to form.
Step 10: Use Natural Antiseptics For Your Dog’s Mouth
Any kind of infection should always be treated by a veterinarian. Still, aloe vera gel is a great option if you’re wondering how to clean a dog’s mouth naturally. You can also use purified MCT oil.
Beware of coconut oil, as the saturated fat in coconut oil can feed harmful bacteria and cause inflammation in the mucosal lining. Yes, it does kill some bad bacteria. Still, because of the inflammation, it means it also allows the endotoxins from the bacteria it kills to leak throw tiny holes in the mucosal lining of the gums. So always use pure MCT oil rather than coconut oil.
On the other hand, pomegranate extract and bee propolis also have some good properties. These are definite options when it comes to home remedies. For a light clean, you can rub a homemade mixture of MCT oil, pomegranate extract, propolis, and aloe vera gel on your dog’s gums and teeth.
Some people also use diluted hydrogen peroxide, but we caution against this as it can damage the tooth enamel and even cause a chemical burn.
Cleaning the mouth is one of the most pivotal aspects of routine dog care. Just like gut health, good diet, and exercise, keeping dogs’ dental cleanliness intact protects them from a wide range of dental problems and ailments. It can even extend their lifespan.
Be sure to make mouth cleaning a daily practice by investing in a good toothbrushing regimen. Add a mouth rinse to their water to keep killing harmful bacteria throughout the day and give plenty of appropriate chews to keep teeth cleaned the natural way.
Zambori, C., Morvay, A. A., Sala, C., Licker, M., Gurban, C., Tanasie, G., & Tîrziu, E. (2016). Antimicrobial effect of probiotics on bacterial species from dental plaque. The Journal of Infection in Developing Countries, 10(03), 214-221.
Pinto, C. F. D., Lehr, W., Pignone, V. N., Chain, C. P., & Trevizan, L. (2020). Evaluation of teeth injuries in Beagle dogs caused by autoclaved beef bones used as a chewing item to remove dental calculus. Plos one, 15(2), e0228146.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.