Why is practicing at-home dental care on my dog vital?

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Dogs need regular dental care—and like people, they experience many of the same problems we do, such as gum disease and tooth abscesses. Of course, a dental check-up should be part of the regular veterinary exam, and professional cleaning is important. With regular brushing, though, you can still remove some of the tartar yourself, so don’t wait for the once-a-year professional cleaning to do it!

There are two big reasons you want to also conduct it at-home—not to replace veterinary dental care, but to complement it. The first is that, like us, tooth disease can often affect other parts of the body, such as the heart. The second reason just involves your finances. By practicing regular care at home, you might see problems while they are still small and easily managed. If you wait, however, a small problem could well turn into a major one, with removal being a necessary option.

So how do you proceed? The first things you need to do are to get the dog used to it and make sure you have the proper tools. Brush the dog’s teeth every single day, using a dental scaling tool for dogs. This tool has a plastic handle with a curved metal blade for scraping the dog’s teeth.

• Tell your dog to sit or lie down, whichever position your dog normally assumes during regular dental care. Lift the dog’s lip and begin the scaling on the tooth that needs the most attention.
• Use the side of the scaling tool to scrape from the gum line toward the bottom of the tooth. You must move the scaling tool in a downward motion to prevent injuring the gums.
• Clean in several small sessions rather than trying to force the dog to endure a long scraping session. Unless the dog is highly trained or anesthetized, she isn’t going to submit to more than a minute or two of scraping.
• Reward the dog with praise and a treat. Offer a crunchy biscuit or bone.

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