How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth


Luke asked: How can I clean my dog’s teeth at home? It costs $150 to have my dog’s teeth cleaned at the vet office. I would appreciate a viable “at-home” alternative showing me how to pull this off at home. I realize they put the dog to sleep at the vet office, but maybe there is a way to achieve the same results at home? It seems important to brush their teeth regularly and it’s just not cost effective to do this professionally each time.

Dog’s teeth can develop tartar build-up, plaque and cavities the same way that human teeth do. When you take your dog to the vet, they are able to scrape away any tartar and check for any problems. For dogs that have not had these cleanings done before, they can get very nervous and must be put to sleep for the procedure. As you brush your dog’s teeth at home, they will become more comfortable with having someone working on their teeth and will become more tolerant. As this continues, the office cleanings may be able to be completed while your dog is still awake, saving you lots of time and money. Brushing your dog’s teeth should become part of your routine. It is recommended that you clean your dog’s teeth at home at least twice a week. Here’s what to do to keep their teeth strong and healthy.

What You Will Need:

  • Doggie toothpaste
  • Toothbrush or washcloth or gauze to wrap around your finger

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Gather all of your supplies and prep as much as possible prior to starting. Choose whether you will be cleaning with a toothbrush, washcloth or gauze wrapped around your finger and apply a small amount of the doggie toothpaste to the tip.
  2. It is best to complete this cleaning when your dog is relaxed. If your dog is ready to play, it may be difficult to get him to sit still while you clean.
  3. Find a position that allows you to easily access your dog’s mouth/teeth.
  4. Gently lift the upper lip on one side and begin brushing in a circular motion. Refresh with more toothpaste as needed.
  5. As you are brushing and cleaning, ensure to clean the gum line (where the teeth meet the gums) because this is where many problems start.
  6. Work your way around the mouth brushing each tooth. Use care to thoroughly clean the back teeth as this is where many problems can occur as well.
  7. When all of the top teeth are cleaned, continue with the same procedure to clean the bottom teeth.
  8. Complete this cleaning twice a week and visit your veterinarian once a year for a professional cleaning.

Additional Tips and Advice

  1. Did you know that your pet’s “dog breath” does not always have to be bad. In fact, if your dog has bad breath, it can be a sign of a problem with their teeth.
  2. If your dog will not tolerate the toothbrush, try a nubby-surfaced rubber cap. These are like rubber toothbrushes that you place on the top of your finger and provide a gentler cleaning than bristled brushes. It also gives you a good feel of where you’re brushing since it’s right on your fingertip.
  3. Only use dental products designed specifically for dogs. Do not use human toothpaste for your dog as it is not designed to be swallowed and dogs cannot spit. Anything that you use to clean their teeth will be swallowed, so ensure it’s made for them.
  4. Feed your dog hard dog biscuits or hard dog food each day and a hard bone or toy to chew on to keep their teeth strong.
  5. It may be helpful to have another person around to help you when you are cleaning your dog’s teeth for the first few times, even if it’s just to help keep your dog calm during the process.
  6. When in doubt, always seek the advice of a veterinarian. Ask them to walk you through the cleaning process to ensure that you are getting all the important spots.


  1. Nicole says:

    Wow! This article really helped me. I could NEVER calm my dog to brush her teeth. I usually just did one or two brushes and then gave up. I cannot wait to try brushing my dogs teeth and FINALLY get her breath to smell better.

  2. Amy says:

    We had a border collie who would let me clean his teeth while he laid on a dog bed. I used a dental scaler instrument to get the hard ugly plaque off. He never minded and was never doped up. It was a handled instrument and tip was flat metal sharper on one side. Just like the dentist or hygenist use back in the day. After, I would rub the teeth with a damp gauze and doggie tooth paste.. (my dad said a little baking soda would work but each section would be wiped off with a clean wet gauze) that is the polishing.

  3. Kia says:

    My dog loves brushing. I find this really funny. Even when I’m brushing my teeth, he keeps looking at me. I guess he finds his toothpaste very tasty. I have three dogs, and two of them never like brushing their teeth and always run away when they see the toothbrush, but amazingly this cute little doggy loves brushing. He’s always sniffing the box where I keep his toothpaste. :)

  4. Dallas says:

    Brushing your pet’s teeth is great to do, but shouldn’t be confused with dental scaling done by your vet. Just like with people, brushing helps prevent plaque buildup but has minimal effect on tartar and existing gum disease. Dental scaling by your dentist (for you) or your vet (for your pet) uses ultrasound to thoroughly remove tartar, including the important infection and tartar under the gums. This is uncomfortable, so can’t be done on a conscious pet: manually scaling doesn’t achieve the same results on the microscopic level, which is why most vets never bother with this.
    If your pet has red gums and obvious tartar buildup, this indicates they need more than just brushing: in some cases there may be gum disease, rotten roots or a loose tooth. Book your pet in for a visit to make sure the problem is dealt with properly.

  5. Carol says:

    Our dogs have always been a priority to our family and a few months ago a visit to our vet revealed two of our dogs required extensive dental work. I attempted brushing in the past and the effort would discourage the most dedicated owner. Our neighbor’s dog’s teeth and gums look like he is in show business; they turned me on to an amazing product from VitaHound; its a all natural spray called Petzlife, this stuff works and its so simple.

  6. Brianna says:

    I love it! My dog’s teeth were yellow, now they are white and smell fresh as mint tea thanks to these tips!
    Now, does anybody know how to bathe a dog?

  7. Shywan says:

    Well, let’s start by getting some dog shampoo, and conditioner if you have a coarse-haired dog that may need a little extra softening. Then, some water. If you don’t have a hand-held shower sprayer, you may want to buy one that attaches to your faucet (Bed, Bath & Beyond has nice ones or Walmart). Then, add water and make sure you watch the temperature; the water needs to be lukewarm, not cool or hot, and do not (I repeat, DO NOT) wet the inside of the dog’s ears! The dog may get an ear infection. Now, wash him gently all over and here’s a tip: baby shampoo works wonders for my poodle! It doesn’t burn his eyes and is very gentle. After that, lather once or twice depending on how dirty your pet is, condition if needed, rinse, dry thoroughly and then dry with a warm blow dryer to dry completely. Again, DO NOT GET AIR IN YOUR DOG’S EARS! Make sure the air is not too hot; dogs temperatures are a little different. Don’t forget to step back when they shake! Happy washing!

  8. Nicole says:

    Brianna, I just use dog shampoo and wash my dogs in our shower. We have a removable shower head, which makes it very easy to do on your own. If you don’t have a removable shower head, you can have someone hold your dog while you wash them in the bath tub and use a cup to rinse off the shampoo. I always keep the water at room temperature so that it isn’t too hot or cold. I keep a pile of dog towels nearby to dry them after the bath. Then, I clean our shower.

  9. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Wash Dogs

  10. Steve says:

    We have three small dogs; one for sure needs cleaning, but being retired, it is very difficult to afford the $250.00 plus for their service. The yorkie I speak of has breath that would knock a buzzard off of a shit wagon. Thanks for your input, Steve

  11. Samantha says:

    Dental sticks and dog food with dental products in them make my dog throw up. I assume dog toothpaste would do the same. What can I use as an alternative?

  12. Melanie says:

    First, compare the ingredients of the products you know make your dog sick to see if you can find out exactly what dental product it is that is causing the problem.
    Just plain baking soda mixed with some water to make a paste is really all that is needed for toothpaste, but it doesn’t taste very good (first hand knowledge) – even mixed with some honey it’s still lackluster (honey’s an antibacterial/antifungal/antiviral/etc.). Most toothpaste recipes suggest adding something antibacterial like peppermint, thyme, or coconut oil, which also improve the flavor. Some dogs appreciate a bit of bouillon mixed in to their toothpaste for a meaty flavor.
    One of the reasons baking soda is used for toothpaste is because it’s alkaline, so it neutralizes the acids in the mouth that eat away tooth enamel. Also, it’s slightly abrasive, so it can clean off the debris and plaque on teeth. The trouble with dog toothpaste in general though is that dog’s can’t spit it out, they have to swallow it, so whatever it is, it has to be digestible. Whatever you use, make sure you only use a little – not even a whole toothbrush-full (a little goes a long way); even too much plain baking soda can make a dog sick.
    There are a lot of great and easy recipes for DIY dog toothpaste online. Here’s a list of several DIY dog toothpaste recipes, and here is another that is clay-based rather than baking soda-based. You could also make your own DIY toothbrush treats or DIY fresh breath treats.
    Source: Yahoo! Answers – Is it safe to brush my dog’s teeth with baking soda? Will it make him sick?

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