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3 Common Brushing Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Don’t try to open your dog's mouth. "As soon as you open the pet's mouth it will struggle," says Sharon Hoffman, DVM, a veterinary dentist in Jacksonville, Fla. The key to a comfortable brushing is to keep your pet's mouth closed while gently lifting its lips, Hoffman says. 
  2. Don’t brush a 'dirty' mouth. Before you begin making a habit of brushing your dog's (or cat's) teeth, you'll want your pet to have a professional cleaning. "Gums are very vascular," says O'Morrow. "You don't want to be pushing bacteria into the bloodstream by brushing a dirty mouth."
  3. Don’t scrub your dog’s teeth. Just like yours, your dog's teeth and gums can be damaged if you brush too hard, so take it easy.


When You Can’t Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Try as you might, there are a few pets who just won't let their teeth be brushed. The good news is you can still protect your dog’s teeth with a combination of home and professional care.

First, feed your pet a good quality pet food. Ask your vet if your dog needs a "dental diet." Vets recommend looking for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), which researches manufacturer claims for dental-health foods, chews, and rinses. VOHC is the pet version of the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval on oral health products for people.

Second, offer your pet enjoyable chew time daily with pet-safe toys, preferably ones carrying the VOHC seal. You can find a list of VOHC-approved chews and toys at

Third, take your pet to the vet regularly for oral examinations, dental X-rays, and annual cleanings done under general anesthesia. Some pets may need professional care more frequently. Your vet will help you decide on the best schedule.

Your Reward: A More Playful Dog

While you might not notice signs of dental disease because dogs hide most dental pain, you will notice the night-and-day change in your pet when oral problems are finally taken care of, Woodward says. Your precious pooch will act younger, more playful, and be more active.

Your dog is your best friend. Return the favor and make sure your dog is healthy and pain-free. Daily tooth brushings and regular oral care are a wag-worthy way of showing your dog how much you care.

How to Brush a Dog's Teeth

See techniques and tips for brushing your dog's teeth – the easy way.
View slideshow