Skip to content

Dog Dental Care For the Healthiest Canine Smiles

Our team independently researches and recommends the best pet products for you and your furry friends. Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

Table of Contents

Everyone’s familiar with the phrase “dog breath.” You may not enjoy the smell wafting from your dog’s mouth, but if the odor knocks you out, there may be problems brewing. Appropriate dog dental care needs to be part of your daily routine. Not only will it keep stinky breath at bay, but it could also save your dog from severe dental problems.

Periodontal Disease

The American Veterinary Dental College estimates that most dogs develop some form of periodontal disease by the age of three. Shocking, right? Tooth problems seem like an older age problem. Bad breath is often the first warning sign, but owners often dismiss the symptom as normal doggy breath. But if you feel the odor’s horrific, you need to get your dog to the vet right away.

If left untreated, dental disease has the potential to lead to abscesses, tooth loss, and even infections throughout your dog’s body. Veterinarians treat many of the following dental issues:

  • Broken jaw
  • Broken teeth
  • Cysts or tumors
  • Malocclusion (misaligned teeth or jaws)
  • Palate defects (cleft palate)

Proper dog dental care is the first defense against such problems.

Breed Concerns

Every dog deserves consistent dental care. However, there are specific breeds that are more susceptible to periodontal disease. Problems arise due to the presence of less bone in the skull. There isn’t as much support for the teeth. You need to step up your dog’s dental care routine to make up the difference. This group includes the Sighthounds and small dogs. In fact, the tinier the dog, the bigger the problems.

The Importance of Proper Dog Dental Care

Why has dog dental care emerged as such a concern? According to dental-hygienist Kimi Kan-Rohrer at the University of California-Davis, “Because pets are living longer, dog dental care has become more important to address as it can be connected to other health issues.” If a compromised tooth allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream, your dog can end up with kidney, liver, or even heart issues. That’s the last thing you want to see happen – especially when you can prevent the problem.

As part of your routine dog dental care, you want to keep an eye out for ANY of the following:

  • Abnormal chewing
  • Abnormal drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Extra or retained baby teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Reduced appetite (or refusing to eat)
  • Swelling around the mouth
  • Teeth covered in tartar

Dog Dental Care

Luckily, there are multiple lines of defense in the war against periodontal disease. You can use all of these options (which is optimal), or you can find a combination that works best for you and your dog. The critical part is getting started as early as possible. (Three years comes up fast!) The sooner you start a dog dental care program, the sooner you start protecting those pearly whites.

Dog Dental Care: The Annual Cleaning

Surprise! Starting with a clean slate is always the best option. A professional cleaning with your veterinarian provides the healthiest state for your dog’s mouth. This kicks off the dog dental care plan on the right foot.

For most dogs, this is an annual visit. If your dog’s mouth has problems, you may need to go more often.

What happens during a professional cleaning?

  • Intraoral radiographs
  • Full dental charting
  • Scaling above and below the gumline
  • Polishing
  • Any necessary extractions


Yes, your dog undergoes general anesthesia during a dental cleaning. Why? Well, you have no problem opening and closing your mouth when prompted by your dentist. Your dog? Not so much. The anesthesia allows a safe environment for the veterinary staff AND your dog. In addition, if extractions are needed, the anesthesia ensures a pain-free procedure.

Dog Dental Care: Brushing

Now that your dog’s teeth are fresh and shiny, you take over the dog dental care duties. The gold standard? Brushing their teeth! You want to use dog toothpaste. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day. Plaque brushes off teeth easily. After 48-72 hours, plaque calcifies into tartar, which you CAN’T brush off. So while you can brush your dog’s teeth every other day, you shouldn’t go much further out than that.

The mechanical action of the bristles against your dog’s teeth, combined with the abrasive in the toothpaste, is what removes that pesky plaque. You can train your dog to accept this into their everyday routine. Once you both get the hang of it, you’ll be on your way!

Dog Dental Care: Dental Treats

Between brushings, dental treats make a great addition to your dog dental care routine. Dental treats have unique designs to remove plaque build-up as your dog chews them. They also contain ingredients to help freshen your dog’s breath (two for one!). Your best option is to select a treat approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).

Established in 1997, the VOHC maintains a list of all oral health products. Manufacturers must submit their clinical research to prove their products remove a minimum of 10-15% of plaque to receive the VOHC seal. The list includes treats, foods, toothpaste, and even water additives.

We use Greenies as the dental treat of choice in our house. They come in a variety of sizes, and they often have seasonal flavors in addition to the standard flavor. Our dog loves them so much, she knows precisely what time of day is Greenie time. All of the Greenies have the VOHC seal (to give you peace of mind). And our Greyhound (a breed notorious for bad teeth) gets a fantastic report on her smile every vet visit.

Greenies Dog Dental Chews

Dog Dental Care: Chews

Chewing, in general, aids in the dog dental care process. There are hundreds of options available – everything from natural chews to chew toys. If your dog gnaws on the object, they’ll scrape the unwanted plaque from their teeth. However, you’d probably like them to avoid the furniture.

Cow’s ears, bully sticks, and chicken jerky make for great chews with flavoring. You should AVOID rawhide chews. They have the potential to become choking hazards, and they scrape and tear the intestinal tract. They also have the potential to end up coated in chemicals that may cause your dog to fall ill. NO RAWHIDES!

Marrow bones are acceptable, provided you supervise your dog the entire time. AVOID cooked bones! Cooked bones splinter, causing internal damage! When your dog isn’t chewing on the bones, please keep them in the fridge to prevent bacterial contamination.

Rubber and nylon toys work well for dog dental care. Just make sure the toy you choose is appropriate for your dog. (No foreign bodies, please) When they finish playing, put the toy away to avoid any potential accidents.

Smile for the Camera!

You’d never skip brushing your teeth for a day, right? So you shouldn’t skimp on your dog’s dental care, either. But, even if you just brush their teeth every day or hand out a dental treat, you’re making a big difference. Little acts add up. And it’s better than facing the possibility of a root canal or extractions.

So check that VOHC list and put together your dog dental care plan. Your dog will appreciate it. And there won’t be any more stinky dog breath!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn’t a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals.

After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study.

Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania’s small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum’s vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn’s vet students.

With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make.

New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine
Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn’t disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions.

And a few memories stood out and remained to this day:

  • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY
  • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill
  • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life

Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine
Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining “real life” experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital.

However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered – staff, clients, and patients alike – left a lasting impression.

Additional standout moments included:

  • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program
  • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit
  • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge)

Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician
Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician – first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT).

Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient’s stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape.

With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations.

Cardiology Veterinary Technician
With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted.

She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern.

And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

Check out Andria’s LinkedIn here

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *