How to brush your dog’s teeth and keep them healthy


Dogs’ teeth need TLC too, just like ours. Here’s what you need to know about dental care for dogs – according to our veterinary nurse

Can dogs eat raw chicken?

Quick takeaways for teeth cleaning

  • Dental disease is surprisingly common in dogs.
  • Vet check-ups and regular cleaning at home are a winning combination.
  • A raw diet can potentially help reduce plaque buildup and bad breath for optimal oral health.


It’s easy to overlook dental hygiene for a dog, but cared-for teeth are vital for good health. Believe it or not, dental disease is incredibly common in dogs. In fact, by age 3, the majority of dogs sadly have some kind of dental problem.

Luckily, dental disease is completely preventable with the right care, and in the early stages, it’s even reversible. Here’s how to do home dental checkups and clean your dog’s pearly whites.


Why is it so important to clean my dog’s teeth?

A buildup of plaque can lead to gingivitis, and in severe cases, periodontitis, causing pain, tooth loss and bone loss. If there’s too much bacteria in your dog’s mouth, it can spread via their bloodstream to cause issues elsewhere in the body.

So, it turns out regular dental care is just as important for our dogs as it is for us.


Should I take my dog to the dentist?

Yes! Taking your dog to the vet for a checkup is essential before you start a dental care routine at home.

‘If your dog’s teeth already have tartar buildup, brushing may not be enough,’ says Melanie Sainsbury, veterinary nurse and educator for Natures Menu. ‘A professional descale and polish might be necessary first.’

'Your practice might even offer a free veterinary nurse dental check-up for your dog. You can get the opinion of a professional and their advice on how to care for your dog's teeth,' says Melanie.

If necessary, the vet will thoroughly examine and clean your dog’s teeth under general anaesthesia. They might also perform some tests and X-rays to catch any potential problems.

In general, we recommend aiming for an annual visit to the vet for a dental checkup. 'This can often be tied in with your dog's routine check-up for annual vaccinations.


How to clean your dog’s teeth and remove plaque

Just minutes after a professional cleaning, plaque begins forming again. That’s why experts agree that toothbrushing at home is one of the most effective ways to keep plaque under control.

So once you’ve got a thumbs up from your vet, it’s time to get brushing. But getting started can be daunting for any owner – here are some steps to ease your dog into a new routine.


What you’ll need

‘Start with a toothbrush specially designed for pets,’ says Melanie. They come in different sizes to suit different breeds.

Next, find a pet-friendly toothpaste. Yes, they make toothpaste just for dogs – it comes in flavours like chicken or peanut butter.

‘Not only does this taste nice for pets, but it also doesn’t contain any of the elements in human toothpaste that can harm them’ says Melanie.


1. Ease them in

Introduce your dog to the toothbrush and toothpaste by letting them sniff and lick it. Make it a fun experience – positive reinforcement, like treats or praise, works wonders.


2. Get your dog used to the feeling

Gently rub the outside of your dog’s mouth with your finger or the toothbrush (without toothpaste) to mimic the sensation. If they’re okay with that, move to their gums. You might need to spread this training out over a few days – there’s no rush!


3. Brush those teeth

Once your dog is comfortable, start brushing their teeth with toothpaste. Start with the outer surface of the canines using gentle up and down motions.

Little by little, move on to new parts of the mouth. Keep in mind, your dog’s front teeth are the most sensitive.


4. Trial and error

Experiment with your brushing technique to see what works best for your dog. If your dog likes to chew their toothbrush, try gently securing their lower jaw in your hand.


5. Take it at a pace that feels right

If your dog ever seems stressed, don’t be afraid to take a break. ‘Never force your pet to have their teeth cleaned,’ advises Melaine. ‘Always take it very gradually and slowly, building up the time you spend and pressure you use.’


How often should you brush your dog’s teeth?

Brushing your dog’s teeth every day is ideal for their health. If you’re having teething problems with your new routine, aim for once every 2 to 3 days to start with. You can always build up over time as you and your dog get used to it.


How should I brush my puppy’s teeth?

It's never too early to start healthy habits. Introducing your dog to teeth cleaning early in life is a huge advantage.

Use a soft brush or your finger and start slow. You can even use a toothbrush made for a human baby.


What if my dog won’t let me brush their teeth?

If your dog simply isn’t welcoming a toothbrush into their mouth, don’t stress. Here are some alternative options for dogs who refuse a toothbrush, according to Melanie:

  • Toothpaste – simply rubbing dog toothpaste onto their teeth with your fingers can be effective. There are also interactive toys that are designed to have doggy toothpaste spread into crevices.
  • Oral spray or rinse – you can spray these on your dog’s teeth or add them to their water bowl to help break down plaque.
  • Dental gel – applying a special gel to your dog’s teeth once a week can create a protective barrier.
  • Chews – some dogs love chewing on toys or hard treats that help clean plaque off their teeth.

If in doubt, ask your vet for advice. Always supervise your dog while they’re chewing on something.


What’s the best diet for your dog’s teeth?

There’s no one right way to feed your dog, but a raw food diet can have particular benefits for oral health.

The bacteria in your dog’s mouth feed on sugar from the food they eat. Raw food diets are naturally low in sugar, which means there’s less for the bacteria to eat. This supports oral health and cuts down on smelly breath too.


Are bones good for a dog's teeth?

Incorporating some chewing can also naturally remove plaque buildup. Nature’s Menu raw chews are a great choice for your pooch’s teeth.

Research shows bones can also help remove dental plaque in dogs. Our raw, meaty bones are a good option – just make sure you always keep a watchful eye and follow the advice printed on the pack.


What are the signs my dog has a dental problem?

It’s hard to have a proper look inside your dog’s mouth to check for problems – even vets have to use anaesthesia for an exam.

So here are some other signs of dental problems in dogs to watch for:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Blood in saliva
  • Appetite loss
  • Reluctance to eat normal food or treats
  • Favouring one side of their mouth when eating or chewing
  • Having trouble swallowing food
  • Pain when chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Low energy
  • Weight loss.

Keep in mind, that some breeds are more susceptible to dental issues than others. Small dogs are more likely to have crowded teeth with more crevices for plaque to crowd.

Greyhounds and Maltese dogs are prone to a more aggressive form of periodontitis.


Dental hygiene FAQs

My old dog has bad breath – what should I do?

Dog bad breath happens, but persistent bad breath may be a sign of dental issues. First off, check for stuck food or foreign objects in their mouth. If the bad breath persists, schedule a vet visit to rule out any underlying dental problems.


Can you brush a dog’s teeth with human toothpaste?

Never use human toothpaste – it contains ingredients that can be harmful to dogs.


Is ultrasonic dog teeth cleaning worth it?

An ultrasonic toothbrush uses ultrasound waves to clean your dog’s teeth. These waves silently clean your dog's teeth without the need to brush back and forth. They can be a good option if your dog hasn’t taken to a normal toothbrush if you're willing to invest.

So, there you have it – everything you need to know to look after your dog’s dental health. From regular brushing and vet checkups to the benefits of raw chews, your dog’s well on their way to healthy teeth. Here’s to all the slobbery kisses to come!

Try our personalised meal plans with high-quality raw ingredients to help keep your dog healthy and happy.