Home oral hygiene can make a tremendous difference in your dog’s comfort and health. There are several home care oral hygiene options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation will pay big dividends. What really matters is whether or not home oral hygiene will be provided over the long haul – effort applied only for a short period or only occasionally will be of no long-term benefit.
Listed below are some commonly used options for home oral hygiene that have been proven to be of benefit for dogs. Combining several methods will achieve the best results. All methods of home oral hygiene share the goal of preventing or controlling periodontal disease by minimizing plaque (bacterial film) accumulation, and preventing the mineralization of the plaque to form calculus (“tartar”).
BRUSHING and TOOTH-PASTES: Brushing your dog’s teeth is the single most effective means to maintain oral health between professional dental examinations. This makes sense because the bacterial film known as “plaque” is the cause of periodontal disease. This film is easily disrupted by the simple mechanical effect of brushing the teeth. Frequent (ideally daily) brushing is recommended to maintain optimal dental health. Almost all dogs will eventually accept brushing. The key to success is to be patient and gradual in your approach, brushing mainly the outside of the “cheek teeth” located under the upper lip. A dog that resists brushing frequently may have painful areas in the mouth that need to be addressed.
We recommend a pet-specific dentrifrice for dogs. These products are safe for dogs and come in flavors that dogs accept, such as poultry, beef and vanilla. Avoid human toothpastes as they often contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents that should not be swallowed or inhaled by dogs.
Toothbrushes designed for dogs are soft and angled to assist in brushing the back teeth. Some dogs prefer finger brushes. A variety of “dental wipes” containing different products are available. The single-use wipes are rubbed on the outside of the teeth to remove plaque.
CHLORHEXIDINE ORAL RINSE and GEL: Chlorhexidine is the most effective anti-plaque antiseptic. Chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues and tooth surfaces, and is gradually released into the oral cavity. It is safe for pets and rarely causes problems, though it does have a bitter taste if palatability enhancers suitable for dogs are not included. Some dogs may object to the taste of products containing chlorhexidine while others accept it with no difficulty. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The gel is applied by smearing it onto the teeth. The tongue and lips will spread the rinse or gel around the mouth.
DIETS and CHEWS: Several “dental diets” have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease. Some employ a specific kibble design and others include a chemical anti-tartar poly-phosphate ingredient.
Rawhide products and chew treats can be helpful if chewed daily, and some rawhide chews and biscuits contain an anti-tartar ingredient. Palatability is important – chewing every day is the ideal.
We do not recommend cow hooves, dried natural bones or hard nylon products because they are too hard. They can break teeth and swallowing a large piece can result in an intestinal obstruction.Chew toys are only of benefit if they are played with frequently and over the long haul – you can increase the dog’s willingness to chew by smearing palatable peanut butter or soft cheese on the product.