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How To Clean A Dog’s Mouth: A Detailed Guide

At A Glance

Maintaining a dog’s dental hygiene is as important as taking care of its nutrition and daily exercise needs. To maintain optimum dental health:

  • Ensure regular dog teeth cleaning
  • Brush teeth using canine toothpaste
  • Use dog treats and dental chews along with natural alternatives like coconut oil

Last Updated on: Oct 24, 2022

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Dog parents take a lot of care of their pet’s health through nutrition, exercise, and regular vet check-ups, but dental health, which is just as important, is often an afterthought.

Poor dental hygiene in dogs can lead not only cause bad breath, toothaches, and gum infections but also periodontal disease and other health complications. It can even affect your dog’s well-being and quality of life.

Learn how to clean a dog’s mouth effectively to prevent dental and overall health issues in your pet. In this guide, we’ll help you brush up on canine oral and dental health to ensure a healthy smile.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Using Canine Toothpaste

Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the gold standard of oral hygiene. It’ll keep your dog’s teeth clean and can help prevent plaque buildup, reduce toothaches, and the risk of gum disease. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) also asserts that daily brushing helps destroy harmful bacteria and prevent buildup from returning.

It’s equally important that you pay attention to your choice of toothpaste.

Human toothpaste may contain ingredients that could cause an upset stomach or other digestive issues if your dog accidentally swallows it.

Some human toothpaste may have a sodium level that’s too high for dogs, which can make them feel ill. Xylitol is also a common ingredient in human toothpaste and can be toxic for dogs, with high amounts of xylitol causing hypoglycemia, liver failure, and seizures in dogs.

Pet toothpaste is specifically formulated for your dog’s teeth and has special ingredients like enzymes or bone meal so your dog can enjoy the toothbrushing experience. You can also find various flavors in canine toothpaste such as beef and poultry!

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Dental Treats Are a Great Alternative To Regular Brushing

Dogs love treats. So, how about we use their love for treats for improving their dental hygiene? Dental treats do just that.

Dental treats contain active ingredients such as enzymes that help address plaque. These treats have also been proven effective in preventing bad breath, tartar buildup, and other dental issues. They’re also one of the best tools if you’ve been at a loss for how to clean dog’s mouth at home.

These treats are intended to be appetizing for your pet, so they will happily chew on them. They are also shaped in unique forms, which can help massage your dog’s gums while breaking down plaque.

Dog trainer Erika Thomas affirms this, saying, “Natural chewing can help dogs dislodge some food that’s stuck in-between their teeth.”

Not all dogs will stay still while you brush their teeth, and dental treats can be a great alternative on those days when your dog is being extra fussy.

Give Your Dog Raw Bones For Cleaner Teeth

According to Itamar Dos Anjos, Doctor at Veterinary Medicine, Bahia, “The best diet to maintain oral health is a BARF diet where your dog eats raw meaty bones.”

Now, what’s a BARF diet?

A Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food — BARF — diet typically includes raw bones, raw eggs, muscle meat, organ meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dog-safe dairy products. This nutrient-rich diet helps contribute to healthier skin, shinier coats, increased energy, smaller stool, and better dental hygiene for dogs. It’s also an excellent diet if you’re looking for high-calorie dog food.

Whether or not you decide to put your dog on a BARF diet, it’s always a good idea to give them raw bones for cleaner teeth as they help clean your dog’s teeth and gums, resulting in better dental health. This is particularly useful for dogs who feel uncomfortable with or are still adjusting to toothbrushes.

Dogs also find raw bones more fun and tasty to chew on, so it’s a win-win!

dog chewing antler

Let Your Dog Chew On Antlers

Dogs love to chew, especially younger dogs looking for a way to alleviate the pain caused by incoming teeth. Chewing also addresses boredom, relieves mild anxiety and frustration, and contributes to cleaner teeth and a stronger jaw for your dog.

The good news is your dog can reap the benefits of chewing without destroying your slippers or furniture. While you can give them bones there’s always a risk of them splintering and causing injuries.

Antlers, on the other hand, are a much safer alternative. Rion Caine, a dog owner, also experienced something similar, stating, “Deer and elk antlers (and certain bones) do not pose a threat of breaking off in shards as they are both made of soft, crumbly, almost porous, calcium rich bone.”

Chewing on antlers can redirect your dog’s boredom and restless energy, which will keep them out of trouble and prevent them from damaging items that aren’t meant to be chewed on.

Chewing on antlers will not only keep your dog’s teeth clean, but they’re also good for dental health as deer antlers are rich in calcium.

Ask The Vet About Dental Dog Sprays

At least 80% of dogs that are 3 years and older have periodontal disease. Dental diseases don’t always show obvious signs until the condition worsens. So, it’s important to practice good dental habits for oral health maintenance and dental disease prevention.

Is a dog’s mouth clean enough if you only stick with toothbrushing? While brushing your dog’s teeth is essential for oral health, you should also consider using dental dog sprays to help keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy. These sprays can reduce oral bacteria and minimize bad breath and tartar accumulation.

Consult with your veterinarian before purchasing dental sprays for your dog. These products may have varying active ingredients and claims of efficacy. Opt for evidence-based products that are VOHC-approved.

how to clean a dog’s mouth - tweet

Keep Some Dog Dental Chews At Home

Dogs love treats and dogs love chewing — dog chews give your dog the best of both worlds.

Dog chews contain antibacterial and antifungal ingredients that help prevent plaque, tartar, and other periodontal diseases. They also prevent bad breath and broken teeth.

Here’s an overview of the benefits of dental chews for dog dental cleaning:

  • Eradicate bacteria build-up and bad breath
  • Limit the buildup of plaque and tartar
  • Reduce teething pains in puppies
  • Encourage dogs’ natural chewing habits
  • Exercise dog’s ability to stay engaged and focused

Go Natural With Coconut Oil

The National Library of Medicine suggests that oil pulling, which uses coconut oil, is effective in decreasing plaque formation by 68%. It also reduces the likelihood of plaque-induced gingivitis. Although it was a study on humans, the benefits could also apply to dogs.

You may try using coconut oil as an alternative to toothpaste or as an additional measure to eliminate bad bacteria and improve your dog’s dental health. If your dog is new to toothbrushes, you can use a finger brush to apply the coconut oil directly onto your dog’s teeth. Make sure to brush in thorough circular motions.

For your peace of mind, you may ask the veterinarian about using coconut oil before trying it.

dog's mouth

Clean Your Dog’s Teeth Naturally With Cinnamon

If you’re wondering how to clean a dog’s mouth naturally, consider using cinnamon extract. Its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties help minimize bad breath, reduce tooth and gum infections, and prevent tooth decay. Cinnamon extract also has anti-inflammatory properties that could relieve toothaches.

You don’t have to worry about cinnamon being toxic, either. Karyn L. Collier, DVM of the Saint Francis Veterinary of South Jersey, has stated that cinnamon is relatively safe for dogs. It reduces bacteria growth and is also believed to improve brain function, circulation, and digestion. Of course, cinnamon consumption should be in moderation to avoid upsetting your dog’s digestive system.

Consider Using Water Additives Or Gels

If you’re not a fan of natural remedies and are questioning “how to clean my dog’s mouth and boost its overall dental health”, you’re in luck.

Dental water additives and antimicrobial gels are excellent for boosting your dog’s dental hygiene. Dental water additives are like canine mouthwashes while antimicrobial gels are like quick cleaning tools that you typically just wipe on your dog’s teeth.

They can effectively clean your dog’s mouth, freshen their breath, prevent bacteria and plaque, and reduce tartar buildup. While they are not replacements for regular toothbrushing, they can certainly boost your pet’s overall dental hygiene.

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checking dog's mouth

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dogs Have Mouthwash?

You can give your dog canine mouthwashes like water additives, but it’s not a good idea to use human mouthwash for dogs because dogs have a tendency to accidentally swallow the product. As noted by Louise Holder, CPDT, WA, “Whether your mouthwash has alcohol or not, it’s not a good idea to give mouthwash to your dog.”

Human mouthwashes also typically have a high amount of xylitol, which can cause hypoglycemia, liver failure, and other health complications in dogs. It’s better to ask the vet for dog mouthwash recommendations.

Is Dental Cleaning By Vet Necessary?

While you can learn how to clean a dog’s mouth by yourself effectively to avoid toothaches, tartar buildup, and dental infections, regular visits to the vet are also important.

A recent study also found that scheduling an annual dental cleaning with the vet can help your dog live longer, with a nearly 20% decreased risk of death.

How Do I Clean A Dog’s Mouth After Eating Poop?

The first thing you have to address when cleaning your dog’s teeth after it’s eaten poop is to brush their teeth as soon as possible using dog toothpaste. You will also want to eliminate their bad breath, for which you can use coconut oil or canine mouthwash.

If your dog has done this multiple times, consult your vet about cleaning your dog’s mouth after eating poop and what you can do to break the habit, such as using meat tenderizers and deterrents in their food.

Is It Safe To Use Hydrogen Peroxide In My Dog’s Mouth?

Dr. Carrie Donahue, Founder of Full Circle Holistic Veterinary Care, notes, “Hydrogen peroxide is an effective antibacterial and antiseptic ingredient that will address plaque developing on the teeth.”

That being said, you can ask your veterinarian about how to clean a dog mouth using hydrogen peroxide safely. Keep in mind, however, that it shouldn’t be a substitute for regular toothbrushing.

How To Remove Tartar From My Dog’s Teeth?

Once plaque hardens and turns into tartar, you need to schedule a professional cleaning for your dog at the vet. It’s not something that can be done safely at home. You can stop this from happening in the first place by preventing plaque buildup through regular brushing.


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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.