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Few people think to brush their pet's pearly whites, but the state of your dog's teeth can actually affect their overall health. Just as you need to regularly clip your dog's nails, it's important to brush your dog's teeth to keep them in tip-top shape — and of course, you'll need the right tools to help you do that. Dental dog treats and teeth-cleaning chews can help, but the best dog toothbrushes will really allow you to give your canine's chompers a thorough cleaning, which in turn will help them avoid periodontal disease and possibly even tooth loss.
As Denise Rollings, CVT, VTS, of Pet Dental Education tells Woman's Day, "The goal of home dental care for dogs is to remove, reduce, and manage plaque." According to Rollings, plaque that isn't removed from the teeth eventually turns into calculus (or tartar), which cannot be brushed off and requires a professional (and costly) dental procedure to remove. "Plaque bacteria also causes an immune response in the body, which is responsible for halitosis, inflamed and possibly bleeding gums, gum recession, root exposure, and eventually tooth loss," she adds. Luckily, all you need is one of these top-rated dog toothbrushes to avoid all that.
The best dog toothbrushes to buy in 2022
Like dog strollers and dog sunscreens, a dog toothbrush is one of those unexpected pet products that's well worth the investment, especially since they can save you from costly surgery down the road. Read on for information on all the best dog toothbrush options, as well as everything you should know about brushing your pup's teeth.
What to look for when shopping for dog toothbrushes
✔️ Brush size: While many dog toothbrushes are dual-ended, so you can choose between larger or smaller bristles, you'll want to make sure the brush you buy is an appropriate size for your dog. Brushes that are too short won't be able to reach the back of a larger dog's mouth, while a brush that's too thick may be cumbersome to maneuver in the mouth of a smaller dog.
✔️ Bristle type: Dog toothbrushes tend to have gentler bristles than typical human toothbrushes, but if you have a puppy or a dog with extra-sensitive teeth, then you'll want to look for a brush with micro-fine bristles or a finger brush with plastic nubs (though, again, finger brushes aren't as effective as cleaning gums).
✔️ Ease of use: Brushes with angled handles make it much easier for pet owners to clean those hard-to-reach teeth in the back, so these may be a better choice for inexperienced brushers. You can also look for brushes with multiple heads if you're looking for a way to brush your dog's teeth as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- How often should you brush a dog's teeth? While dog teeth don't need to be brushed quite as often as human teeth, they do require pretty frequent cleaning. "The gold standard is to brush every day," Rollings says. "Plaque forms within a few hours and tartar forms within a few days. So, if you are only brushing a couple days a week or month, there is going to be a lot of buildup in between." She suggests coming up with a routine and brushing your dog's teeth at the same time every day.
- How can you calm a dog before brushing their teeth? Like with anything you're introducing to your dog for the first time, you'll want to start slow. "If using toothpaste, put some toothpaste on your finger and let your pet lick it off," Rollings suggests. "Next time, touch a tooth or couple teeth with the toothpaste on your finger. After that, touch a few more teeth." Each time you brush, try to increase the amount of time, teeth, and pressure that you are using until you can brush the entire mouth. Also, keep in mind that you don't need to open your dog's mouth and brush the inside of their teeth. "Focus on the outside surfaces of the teeth," says Rollings. "It helps to gently hold the mouth closed with one hand, slide the toothbrush under the cheek, and move the toothbrush in a circular motion."
- Can you use a human toothbrush on a dog? Technically, you don't have to get a pet-specific toothbrush to clean your dog's teeth. According to Rollings, a soft-bristled human or pediatric toothbrush is all you need to get the job done as long as you "find a size and shape that you can use and that your pet tolerates." However, you do need dog-specific toothpaste. "Pets do not spit out the toothpaste, and the fluoride in human toothpaste can be harmful if swallowed," Rollings explains. "Pet toothpaste is safe for them to ingest." And if you get toothpaste in an appealing flavor, like poultry or peanut butter, then it can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
Lizz (she/her) is a senior editor at Good Housekeeping, where she runs the GH Book Club, edits essays and long-form features and writes about pets, books and lifestyle topics. A journalist for almost two decades, she is the author of Biography of a Body and Buffalo Steel. She also teaches journalism as an adjunct professor at New York University's School of Professional Studies and creative nonfiction at the Muse Writing Center, and coaches with the New York Writing Room.
Corinne Sullivan is an Editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers a variety of beats, including lifestyle, entertainment, relationships, shopping, and more. She can tell you everything you need to know about the love lives of A-listers, the coziest bedsheets, and the sex toys actually worth your $$$. She is also the author of the 2018 novel Indecent. Follow her on Instagram for cute pics of her pup and bébé.
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