Teeth Brushing & Toothpaste Recipe

Posted on 06/13/2024

Dental health is easily overlooked on dogs. Most people assume because they each crunchy kibble or chew on their toys that their teeth must be clean right? Unfortunately it’s usually not that simple. I mean if you ate chips every day, would you still need to brush your teeth? OF COURSE YOU WOULD! Kind of gross to think we don't do anything to support our dog's dental health daily.

Unfortunately, most dogs have shortened snouts or misaligned teeth, so they don't get the self cleaning action that you normally would in say...a wolf. Because of this, it's just as important to care for their teeth as we do ours. Sure, I get it BRUSHING MY DOGS TEETH OMG I CANT...same girl, same. However, once you work it into your routine  (I recommend doing it when you brush yours at night, it's not so bad! Trust me, I know from experience. And if it could prolong their time with you AND erridicate pain and dentals at the vet (including being put under anestesia which is more dangerous the older they get), isn't it worth the 2 minutes a day?

Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth

In order to prevent gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth loss, it is important to brush your dog’s teeth daily and provide safe items for them to chew on (see my article on chewing treats/toys). It is also important to make sure your veterinarian checks your dog’s teeth upon their yearly checkups to see if a cleaning needs to be done. Unfortunately, if you're not starting with a clean slate (puppy teeth or freshly cleaned at the vet), your dog will probably have build up that cant be reached or dissolved by regular brushing - they will need a deep cleaning.

These are available without anestesia by some professionals. If anestesia is a concern, which it always is of mine, you may want to seek out these options. If their teeth are really bad, these less intense cleanings might not be an option.

Brushing Regularly

However, regular brushing, along with a whole food diet, can prevent plaque and gum disease, and save you the cost, and danger, of yearly cleanings.

It’s not as hard as you might think and once you get the hang of it, you can make it a nightly routine, brush your teeth - brush your dog’s!

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

When to brush: always at night. Just like for humans, brushing in the morning feels nice but at night is the primary settling of tarter and bacteria. Plus, if you're using my recipe, the antibacterial properties of the coconut oil and tea tree oil will go to work while they rest. My fukids hate everything, but they don't mind it! The brushing is a different story...Akeem acts like he's being water boarded and Ameera runs and hides. It's gotten better over time, dog's learn by repetition and they want to make their owners happy, so don't let a rough start deter you! 

Using a good, all natural, dog-safe toothpaste (recipe below), lift up the dog’s lip and holding the toothbrush at a 45° angle against the tooth and gumline, brush your dog’s teeth by moving the brush in small vibrating motions. Make sure not to brush too hard! Holding the brush between your index finger and thumb will help you get the right pressure. There is no need to brush the inside of the dogs teeth because the tongue creates a self-cleaning action keeps the inside surface relatively clean.

If bleeding occurs, this indicates gum disease, but daily brushing should tighten the gums and stop the bleeding in one to two weeks. If there is more than just a little blood, it's time for a vet visit. The blood should lessen within a week of brushing.

Brush daily for healthy teeth and gums: It's usually easier to keep up with a routine if you do it every day, but if that feels like too much at the start, ease in with 3 times a week. If you brush daily and forget a night (or just don't want to do it), not the end of the world, just pick back up the following night!

Please note, DO NOT use toothpaste for humans, the ingredients are not good for them. There are many different dog toothpastes on the market, some can be found at pet stores and some you can get from your veterinarian. There is also a recipe for the toothpase I make for my dogs below. I prefer to not use any that contain toxic ingredients and if you have an issue with essential oils, just leave out the tea tree oil!

Types of Toothbrushes: There are a lot of toothbrushes on the market for dogs. I find that they are blunt bristles that are really large and aren't as effective as a human toothbrush. I use a baby toothbrush for my dogs, you can get whatever size corresponds to your dog's size. Always opt for soft bristles. DO NOT use the finger brushes, the bristles are too thick and short to get in between the gum line and tooth!

Auntie M's Homemade Toothpaste: 

  • 1/3 cup Coconut Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Baking Soda
  • 5 drops Tea Tree Oil

Rinse the toothbrush with warm water, and add a pea sized amount of toothpaste and make sure it sinks into the bristles. Take up water and no more food after brushing so the coconut oil and tea tree oil can work on killing any bacteria while they sleep!

Chewing for Clean Teeth

There are a number of items on the market that boast the ability to clean your dogs teeth. While not all of them can live up to the hype, there are some things that can aid in cleaning your dog’s teeth between brushings and stimulate the gums. My advice about what I feed my own dogs, along with warnings for chews on the market, are in my article: Chews Wisely. But remember, nothing is a substitute for brushing!

So if I give my dog bones, I can skip brushing right? No way! Have you ever seen a dog chew with their front teeth? Absolutely not. You know how you favor a side when you eat? Same goes for chewing! This is a supplemental and enrichment activity - not a substitute for brushing.

What about Dental Sticks?

Okay, so you feed your dog a dental stick every day. Sounds cute and nice that they get to “brush their own teeth” with a little toothbrush shaped treat…HOWEVER, there’s no way these substitute an actual tooth brushing. Most are gobbled up in seconds, and it’s highly unlikely your dog is using every tooth to gnaw on it.

They also are usually made of synthetic ingredients and add calories to your dog’s daily intake. I completely support a morning snack ritual, as long as it’s 100% natural, but please don’t think that any treat is going to do the work for you. If it sounds easy, it’s probably a lie! That’s actually a blanket statement for life, haha.

Why don't wolves need their teeth brushed?

So initially when I got invested in my dog's health and started home cooking, I was confused as to how wolves teeth don't have this issue in the wild. I mean, especially if a dog is eating raw, shouldn't their teeth stay clean? Clean-er, sure..squeaky clean? No. 

In the wild a wolf would be eating the contents of the stomach, and what do stomachs contain? Acid! Sounds crazy that they would even eat that, but the more wild an animal is, the more instictual they are. So, the wolf is getting a cleaning every time they eat. Your dog, is not, unless you assist! Trust me, it will give you such peace of mind, you'll be so happy you incorporated it into your routine!