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Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

by Dale Johnson, DVM


Dental hygiene is often ignored in the dog. The outcome? Consider what your teeth might look and feel like after months, years or even a lifetime of neglect. They would be a wreck, and you would be miserable. Yes, canine teeth also need frequent brushing to prevent gum disease and early tooth loss, as well as just plain foul breath.
Despite the popular conception, dog biscuits and bones do not keep the teeth clean and healthy. Although some veterinarians feel that gnawing on these hard substances has benefit, it does not prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar which, unless removed, can lead to gum inflammation, tooth root abscesses and other oral problems. That's the simple truth.
The teeth should be brushed at least once or twice a week, more often if possible. As with grooming, acclimation is best started early in the puppy's life.
To make a toothbrush, fold a square gauze pad loosely around the tip of your index finger. Or you can use a small, soft child's toothbrush or buy a special toothbrush from a veterinarian. Dip the toothbrush or gauze pad in a toothpaste designed for dogs (not for humans, since human formulations can upset the dog's stomach) or into a paste made of baking soda and water. Next, vigorously scrub the outside surfaces of the teeth, especially the rear teeth. With the gauze pad, you may also try to gently massage the gums. It is not necessary to brush the interior surfaces of the teeth.
Your veterinarian should check your dog's mouth for tooth or gum disease during annual checkups. The most common problem, tartar accumulation, resembles yellow or brown cement deposits along the gumline or in the crevices of the teeth. Despite your best efforts, a proper dental cleaning under general anesthesia may need to be performed periodically in a veterinarian's office.
Certain breeds commonly retain their baby teeth, especially the canines. In that case, duplicate sets of teeth are seen in the dog's mouth after approximately six months of age. Retained baby teeth can cause malocclusion, since they prevent adult teeth from growing into their correct positions. Retained baby teeth are often extracted by a veterinarian.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).