9 Dog Dental-Care Products: How to Brush Dogs’ Teeth

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If you've ever tried to brush your dog's teeth, you know that it can be a challenging task at best. But taking care of your puppy's dental health has other benefits besides keeping your dog from breathing. “Dental disease in dogs can lead to other health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and respiratory problems,” says Dr. Kimberly DiMaio of Main Street Vets. Veterinarian Pumpkin veterinary expert Dr. Mondrian Contreras says you should brush your dog's teeth every day, but if they're not used to it, it's okay to start slowly. He recommends that you keep the experience “very brief” at first, “and always give a reward afterwards, such as playing with a ball or offering a treat.” This makes the dog associate brushing with a positive experience, so they are more likely to tolerate it , even looking forward to it.

We spoke to DiMaio and nine other veterinarians to find out how to keep your puppy's teeth healthy. While our experts' recommendations don't apply to every product, they do agree that being proactive about your dog's dental health is crucial. First, you need to see your veterinarian at least once a year for a standard oral health evaluation,” says Dr. Alejandro Caos, a veterinarian at The Vets. These evaluations allow you to address dental problems before they become serious. Second, look for products that bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of registration. Dr. Ricky Walther, veterinary consultant at Pawlicy Advisor, explains: “VOHC-certified products are the only ones we know of that have research showing they help oral health.”

Read on for some of the top dog dental care products our experts recommend to keep your dog's teeth clean and gums healthy, including the best dog toothpastes , the best dog toothbrushes , the best dog chews , and the best Dental wipes.

Vick CET double-headed toothbrush

Virbac CET tartar control enzyme dog and cat toothpaste

All our experts agree that regular brushing is the best way to take care of your dog's teeth and gums, and for that you need the right toothbrush. Look for a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid injuring your dog or damaging his gums. Contreras recommends Virbac toothbrushes, and Caos is a fan of Virbac dental care products. This dual-ended toothbrush features a larger brush and a smaller brush to help you clean both large and small tooth surfaces more effectively.

Choose an enzyme toothpaste to boost your dog's defense against plaque and tartar-forming bacteria. According to the American Kennel Club, this toothpaste “contains enzymes that help reduce bacteria, which can reduce tartar buildup and improve bad breath.”

Several of our experts recommend that dog owners use Vick's CET Enzyme Toothpaste or Vick's general dental products, including Caos, DiMaio, and Dr. Paula Simons, a veterinarian and veterinary consultant at K9 of Mine. The enzymes reduce plaque buildup, and the lack of foaming agents means it's safe for dogs to swallow.

Pet Republique Dog Toothbrushes 6-Pack

Veterinary dentist Dr. John Lewis of Veterinary Dental Specialists provides all of his clients with such a double-ended toothbrush. “One end is smaller, I'd say about half to a third the size of the larger end, so you have some options for small and large dogs,” he explains. What's more, the brush has bristles like a broom Likewise, plaque is removed not only from the surface of the crown, but also from the really important areas below the gum line. This set of six toothbrushes costs $8.99, so you don't have to worry about losing them.

Jasper 360° Dog Toothbrush

Dr. Jacqueline Brister, veterinarian and veterinary resource at Embrace Pet Insurance, says it's best to use a finger brush to help your dog “feel more comfortable brushing.” So once they are comfortable with this brushing method, you can switch to a standard dog toothbrush. “An angled finger brush allows for easy access,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, veterinarian and founder of Animal Acupuncture.

The Jasper 360° Dog Toothbrush is Simons’ first choice. There are bristles all over the body, so you can clean a larger area with each brush. That way, you're less likely to miss a spot if your dog is squirmy or difficult to handle. The silicone bristles are soft and perfect for sensitive mouths.

Arm and Hammer Dog Tartar Control Enzyme Toothpaste for Pets

Caos recommends Arm & Hammer's range of pet toothpastes to dog owners on a budget. They contain baking soda and enzymes to clean teeth, fight tartar and freshen breath. You can choose from three formulas focused on gum health, tartar control or breath freshening. Available in beef, chicken, and herb-ginger flavors, you should find one that appeals to your dog.

Dechra Vetradent Dog & Cat Dental Wipes

Every veterinarian we spoke to emphasized that brushing is the best way to keep your dog's teeth and gums healthy, but if your dog won't let you use a brush, dental wipes are a good alternative. While brushing your pet's teeth every day is ideal, sometimes it's easier said than done,” says Dr. Jennifer Frione of Lakeside Animal Hospital. For dogs who can't tolerate daily brushing, she recommends “there are several options available to help manage dental disease.” “Dental wipes don't actually work any better than brushing, but they can be very helpful,” says Contreras. “If the dog can't tolerate brushing but allows you to use wipes, they can make a big difference.” He recommends Dechra Vetradent dental wipes, which are suitable for both dogs and cats. They remove dental biofilm, a layer of bacteria that clings to the surface of the mouth, turns into plaque and tartar, and plays a role in gum disease.

Virbac CET Enzyme Oral Hygiene Chewable Tablets

If wipes are not available, and if your dog won't let you near his mouth, there are many other dental care products you can use, including dental chews, dental diets, and food additives.

While Caos generally doesn’t recommend dental chews and treats for dogs, he says Look for options with less than 20% carbs – these VIC CET chewable tablets contain only 6% carbs. If brushing is not possible, he recommends dental treatment every other day. Meanwhile, Erin Askeland, pet health and behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow, says these enzymatic dental chews are great for dogs who “squirm too much from constant brushing.”

Hill's Prescription Diet t/d Dental Care Chicken Flavored Dry Dog Food

While it can't take care of your dog's oral health alone, dental dog food can serve as another weapon in your fight against canine dental disease. Both Simmons and Contreras recommend Hill's prescription diet to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Contreras recommends this food because Hill's is one of two brands (the other being Royal Canin) that has “the most research and independent research on diet.”

ProDen PlaqueOff Dog and Cat Supplement Powder

ProDen PlaqueOff Powder is VOHC approved and recommended by Brister as a way to improve your dog's dental health in conjunction with brushing. It's formulated with a type of kelp that dissolves existing tartar and helps prevent new plaque from forming. Dental food additives can be easily administered by mixing them with your dog's usual kibble or wet food.

Additional reporting by Lisa Corsillo.

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