Brushing your dog's teeth is just as important as brushing your own. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs need professional oral care by age three.

Why brushing is important

Dogs start out with 28 puppy teeth. By six months of age, their baby teeth fall out and are replaced by 42 permanent teeth. Daily dental care protects those teeth and gums. Daily brushing removes plaque, which affects more than just your dog's teeth and gums; infected teeth and gums can lead to heart, kidney, intestinal tract and joint problems.

The good news is that all of these ailments are preventable with proper dental care:

  • Start early. Get your puppy used to having her teeth brushed by massaging her teeth and gums with your fingers. Use dental wipes or wrap a piece of gauze around your finger to gently rub her teeth and massage her gums.
  • Gradually add dog toothpaste or a dental gel. Use a toothpaste or dental gel designed specifically for dogs. Pet toothpastes come in a variety of meaty flavors, which dogs like, and are much less abrasive than human toothpaste. The enamel on a dog or cat's teeth is much softer than a human's, and will be damaged by human toothpaste or toothbrushes. Also, human toothpaste is designed to be spit out. Doggy toothpaste can be swallowed without any harmful effects.
  • Use a pet toothbrush. Once your dog gets used to you putting your finger in their mouth, you can graduate to a doggy toothbrush. Pet toothbrushes are designed specifically for your dog, with soft bristles and a special angle that enables you to more easily get to the back of your dog's mouth. Do not use a human toothbrush. The bristles of our toothbrushes are too harsh for your dog's mouth.
  • Supplement with Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved dental treats and dental chews. Use them just like you do with other treats–as a reward for good behavior. Follow the feeding instructions on the package, but never use treats to replace good nutrition.
  • Chew toys for the win. Chew toys can help reduce plaque in your dog's mouth. According to the Veterinary Oral Health Council, the mechanical action of chewing can help reduce plaque by up to 70 percent. Chew toys also are ideal for dogs who quickly chew through edible treats.
  • Finish with a rinse. You also can supplement regular brushing with Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved doggy dental rinses. Added to your dog's water bowl, these dental rinses can help cut down on tartar buildup and bad breath.

Be sure to take your pet to his regularly scheduled annual veterinary check-up for a complete assessment of your dog's dental health.

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