Brushing your pup's teeth is super important for his or her good oral care. Believe it or not, your pup's oral health effects their overall health. Periodontal, or gum disease is a common and serious problem in dogs but luckily brushing their teeth helps prevent it.
Vets estimate that 85 percent of dogs that are over the age of five have periodontal disease, which according to ASPSA, "develops when food particles and bacteria collect along the gum line and form soft deposits called plaque. Over time, the plaque turns into rock-hard tartar. If tartar isn’t removed from your dog’s teeth, it will eventually inflame his gums. As the inflamed gums begin to separate from the teeth, pockets form in which more bacteria grow, causing periodontal disease to worsen. At this point, your dog can experience severe pain, lose teeth, form abscesses in his mouth and develop a bacterial infection that can spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys, liver, heart or brain."
All of that sounds pretty scary, huh?
Since Candy is not only my pet but she happens to be my best friend, I want to do everything in my power to keep her healthy. This is especially the case because little dogs are known to build up more plaque on their teeth than larger dogs. This is because their teeth are closer together. I aim to brush her teeth once daily, but sometimes life gets in the way. I at least make sure I set aside some time every other day to brush her teeth in the early morning before she eats, but when I'm able to brush them daily I see a huge difference. Really brushing your pup's teeth 3 times a week is better than nothing at all. Start with a few days and build up over time. It'll become a habit for both you and your dog.
When I first started brushing Candy's teeth she was pretty resistant. At first I just used my fingers with some dog toothpaste to get her used to the feeling. As a puppy anything foreign in their mouth pretty much freaks them out (except for delicious food or treats obviously). Slowly over time after she got used to my finger (with the puppy toothpaste) I began using a finger brush. I've found the soft flexible and rubber ones are the best. This finger brush on Amazon is very similar to what I used when Candy was still a puppy.
A few notes about finger brushes -- first make sure they are soft. Part of a dog's fear of something new being in their mouth is if they don't like the feeling of it. If you are using a hard plastic finger brush (you'd be amazed what they sell at the pet stores) of course they're not going to want their teeth brushed. If your pup is ready to "graduate" to a finger brush after they get used to your finger start slowly and be extremely gentle. I had to use a lot of praise with Candy and if she wasn't going for the finger brush on a particular day I would stop and then start again later. A dog can sense your patience is and more willing to work with you if you give them a lot of love and praise. Oh and don't forget the treat afterwards. Just make sure it's a healthy one since you just brushed their teeth. ;)
Now that Candy is a year and a half I use a baby's stage 1 toothbrush (see above). Yes, you read that correctly. A baby's toothbrush just happens to be the right size for her mouth and the bristles are super gentle but hard enough that they will work on the plaque. It was actually BK's idea to use a baby's toothbrush and it works perfectly for Candy. Just like with the finger brush she had to get used to the toothbrush. Now that she's used to it she will allow me to gently lay her on her back, pull back her lips (while holding the top of her muzzle gently), and begin my brushing. This is how she usually looks below when I do her brushing. My hand is not pictured but she keeps her mouth open like this:
And of course here's the happy girl after her brushing is all done:
Remember it's all about being patient and finding what works best for your pup. Not every dog will respond kindly to getting their teeth brushed, but with a lot of consistency and being patient over time they will get used it. If you want to start now and your pup is already two-years-old, that's okay! It just may take them longer to get used to it so be extra patient. You'll feel great knowing you are doing your absolute best preventing periodontal disease, which can lead to other health issues for your pup. Make a point to brush your best friend's teeth for a healthier and happier dog!