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Teeth Care for Dogs

Most dogs should receive professional dental care by age 2 to 3 years. The frequency of dental examinations, scaling, and polishing depends on how quickly calculus forms on the dog’s teeth. A good program of home dental care will cut down on how often your dog’s teeth need to be professionally cleaned.

In fact, dental disease in dogs can be almost completely avoided by following these guidelines:

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  • Feed a dry kibble diet. Dry foods are abrasive and keep the teeth clean. Feed once or twice a day rather than allowing the dog to nibble all day. If you prefer to feed canned dog food, offer some dry biscuits, such as Milk Bones, daily. Science Diet and Eukanuba offer foods that help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.
  • Brush the teeth and gums at least three times a week using a toothpaste made for dogs. Start the program when the dog is young and her gums are still healthy. If the dog develops periodontal disease, you will need to brush the teeth every day.
  • Avoid giving your dog objects to chew that are harder than her teeth. High-impact rubber balls and rawhide chew toys are less likely to split or break teeth than knuckle bones. Some chews are specially treated to help diminish plaque and tartar. Cheweeze and Dentabones are examples. Avoid feeding chicken bones and long bones that splinter. They provide no benefit and may cause constipation and other problems. In fact, it is best to avoid all bones.
  • Schedule annual veterinary visits for cleaning and scaling. A yearly checkup is the best prevention against dental problems.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of products proven to aid the dental health of your dog. You can find it at (click on “Products Awarded the VOHC Seal”).

Brushing the Teeth and Gums

There are a number of good toothpastes and dental products designed for pets. Some contain abrasives such as calcium and silicates. An example is CET Dentifrice. Others use oxygenating substances to limit the growth of anaerobic bacteria (CET dental products and Oxyfresh). Nolvadent and Peridex contain chlorhexidine, which is both antibacterial and antiviral. MaxiGuard contains zinc ascorbate, which promotes healing of diseased gums. Your veterinarian may suggest that you use one of these products, particularly if your dog has gum disease.

For routine cleaning, a satisfactory toothpaste can be made by mixing 1 tablespoon (14 g) of baking soda with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of water. If the dog is on a salt-restricted diet, substitute a salt replacer (such as potassium chloride) for the baking soda. Most dogs prefer flavored toothpastes made especially for dogs, such as poultry or mint. Dog toothpastes also have enzymes that  clean more thoroughly than just the normal abrasive action of baking soda.

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