Tylas Pet Care PTY LTD is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program including other affiliate advertising programs. Which means we will earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Dog Tooth Decay

How To Remove Plaque From Dogs Teeth | Stop Costly Dental Problems

Studies have found that up to 80 percent of all dogs have gum infections. 61 percent of dogs have hardened plaque between gums and teeth, 60 percent have infection-related damage to the jawbone, and 31 percent have missing teeth.

Below you will find out how to remove plaque from dogs teeth, to prevent the horrible above statistics

Dogs of all breeds and both sexes need daily attention to their dental health throughout their lives.

Most dog owners are heavily invested in dog health. They take their dogs on walks.

They buy quality dog food. They groom their dogs. They make sure their dog sees the vet regularly. But they overlook dental care for their dogs.

Oral health is a key factor in your dog’s overall health. Dogs that have toothaches or infected gums can’t tell us about their pain.

Dental problems in dogs that are left untreated may get into the bloodstream and circulate to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Small breeds are at greater risk than large breeds for severe consequences of untreated dental disease.

The Most Important Thing Owners Can Do to Prevent Dental Problems in Dogs

The one thing people who love their dogs need to know about dental care for dogs is this:

Dental care for dogs must be part of your dog’s daily routine.

Dogs do not naturally like for their humans to poke around in their mouths. Most owners have to warm up to the idea, too.

The ideal time to introduce a dog to daily dental care is when it is a puppy, preferably about the age of 8 weeks. 

It is just beginning to be able to respond to training. Most importantly, it is not yet fearful of new experiences.

But when it comes to daily dental care, even old dogs can learn new tricks.

If you have just realized that your adult dog’s teeth need daily attention, you can use love, treats, and a lot of patience to introduce your dog to necessary daily dental hygiene.

The Second-Most Important Thing Owners Can Do to Prevent Dental Problems in Dogs

Nothing does more to prevent dental problems in dogs than daily tooth brushing.

Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard for preventing dental problems in dogs.

Owners also need to be aware of symptoms that a serious dental health issue has emerged and it’s time to take the dog to the vet, such as these:

Bad Breath

Some strains of the bacteria that cause gum disease can make a dog’s breath smell like mothballs. 

Other kinds of bacteria associated with periodontal disease emit sulfur compounds that make a dog’s breath smell like it just ate its own poop.

Intensely odoriferous breath is usually a sign of a dental problem, but there are some important exceptions:

Dog breath that smells like nail polish may be a symptom of a diabetic emergency.

Dog breath that smells like ammonia usually means the dog has kidney disease or an advanced liver condition.

Dog breath that smells malty or yeasty may be a sign of a yeast infection in the ears.

Bleeding From The Mouth

Bleeding from the mouth. Blood on chew toys is a sure sign of bleeding from the mouth.

Bleeding from the mouth is frequently a sign of gingivitis or periodontitis, discussed in more detail below.

Broken Teeth Or loose Teeth

Sometimes the only way to know if your dog has broken or loose teeth is to take a look for yourself.

Broken teeth happen for a variety of reasons. They can chew on something hard like a bone or antler and break a tooth (it happened to our little guy) or crashing into a hard object such as a wall, car, or even another dog.

The best way to know for sure if your pup has a broken tooth is a trip to the vet.

Reduced Appetite Or Refusal To Eat

 Sometimes dogs don’t eat because they are picky.

Sometimes dogs don’t eat because they aren’t feeling well, or they are having a reaction to a recent vaccination (a shot in the last 48 hours).

Reduced appetite can result from kidney or liver disease or tumors.

The most common reason for reduced appetite is sore gums or teeth. In this case, dental disease is likely to be the cause.

Unusual Chewing, Drooling, Or Dropping Food From The Mouth

If your dog can’t take a bite out of their favorite foods, seems to chew on one side of his mouth, or can’t close their jaw to keep food, water, and saliva inside, the problem may be advanced dental disease.

Yellow Or Brownish-Yellow Teeth, Or Teeth That Are Covered With Tartar

Have you noticed a nasty stain on the teeth when your dog yawns, pants, or smiles?

Yellow teeth are not just a cosmetic issue. They are a sign that the first stage of dental disease is well underway, but possibly still treatable.

These symptoms may signal a progression of dental problems in dogs that starts with plaque accumulation and tartar formation.

This leads to gingivitis, periodontal disease, and systemic inflammation. But what do those terms really mean?

Plaque, Tartar, Gingivitis, and Periodontitis: The Vocabulary of Dental Problems in Dogs

Dental disease in dogs begins when bacteria turn into a film of plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth.

Dogs (and people) encounter hundreds of different kinds of bacteria in food and water every day.

Only a few species of bacteria have the ability to stick to the enamel of a dog’s teeth on their own. 

Most of the bacteria that can form plaque have to wait for other species to form a sticky “biofilm” to glue to the tooth.

This process takes about 24 to 48 hours. If these pioneer bacteria are brushed away every day, the other species of bacteria never get a chance to form plaque.

The bacteria that cause plaque in humans are mostly Streptococcus, the same group that includes the bacteria that cause strep throat.

The bacteria that cause plaque in dogs are mostly Neisseria.

Plaque that stays on the surface of a dog’s tooth hardens into calculus, often referred to as tartar.

This is the substance that gives a dog’s teeth a mottled brown and yellow discoloration.

Plaque can be removed by brushing your dog’s teeth, but tartar is more difficult. The easiest way to remove tartar is a veterinary procedure called scaling, commonly referred to as “cleaning.”

However, there are products you can try at home, they take longer to work but are less invasive.

Once plaque has hardened into tartar, dental problems in dogs accelerate for two reasons:

  • Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow. Tartar is hard but still sticky. Bacteria that cannot stick to healthy enamel on teeth can stick to plaque.


  • Tartar can grow at and below the gum line. It can lift the gum away from the bone to give bacteria another space in which to grow.

Massive multiplication of bacteria on the gum triggers a response from the dog’s immune system.

The immune system generates inflammatory hormones that attack both the bacteria and surrounding gum tissue.

The immune-system’s attack on the bacteria in plaque creates a collection of symptoms known as gingivitis.

The gums become swollen and painful. Pressure on the gums may release blood or fluid.

The swelling of the gums in gingivitis forces tiny blood vessels into twists and turns that make them easy to break.

Pressure on these blood vessels reduces the oxygen and nutrients they can deliver to the gums and bones so further deterioration is inevitable.

At the gingivitis stage of canine dental disease, however, the teeth are still attached to the bone.

Brushing your dog’s teeth stimulates circulation that delivers the oxygen and nutrients the gums and bone need to stay attached.

One of the cardinal signs of gingivitis is halitosis. Gum tissue releases foul-smelling compounds as it decays.

But not every case of gingivitis causes bad breath.

Similarly, not every dog that has gingivitis will have a big buildup of tartar.

There are dogs with severe accumulations of tartar and no gingivitis, and there are dogs that have no visible accumulation of tartar but have severe gingivitis due to the strength of their immune systems.

The only way to know for sure whether your dog has gingivitis is to get an annual dental checkup with the vet.

It can be much easier to determine whether your dog has periodontal disease.

If your dog’s gingivitis has gone untreated so long her teeth are falling out, then periodontal disease is the likely cause.

In periodontal disease, gingivitis has progressed to the point that tartar accumulation and tissue destruction have pulled gums away from bone.

The gums appear to have receded away from the tips of the teeth. They may form pockets that can catch food and more bacteria.

The bone that is in contact with these pockets begins to decay and the teeth come loose.

What Can pet Parents Do To Stop The Progress Of Dental Problems In Dogs?

Some dog owners will try everything but brushing the dog’s teeth to stop dental problems.

Brushing is the best way to stop dental problems in dogs, but other interventions also have some value.

Diet makes a difference.  In the wild, dogs keep their teeth clean by pulling meat off bones as they eat.

Giving your dog raw soup bones and knuckle bones helps clean their teeth. So can letting your dog chew on rawhide or deer antlers.

But some bones are harder than your dog’s teeth and can shatter them. Do not give your dog beef, buffalo or bison shank bones, cow hooves, pork bones, rib bones, or any kind of dried bones.

These kinds of raw bones can splinter and injure your dog’s mouth or throat, and they can also break teeth.

It is also important that you never give your dogs any kind of cooked bones.

Bones from cooked chicken and turkey are especially dangerous for dogs. It’s OK to give your dog leftover meat, but chicken and turkey bones split lengthwise and can easily shatter in your dog’s mouth or digestive tract.

Changing brands of dog food may reduce plaque formation. Dogs that eat soft, wet, or canned dog food, have more plaque and tartar buildup than dogs that eat dry food that has to be chewed.

Dental hygiene chews are chewy treats that scrub plaque off teeth as the dog eats them.

They are more effective for removing plaque from the back of teeth than the front.

The brand of dental hygiene chew you buy makes a difference. There have been incidents in which hundreds of dogs died after eating imported dental hygiene chews.

They contained ingredients like the chemical used in silver polish and other chemicals used to make plastic dinnerware.

It’s best to choose products that are labeled as organic from companies that manufacture them in North America, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand.

Products that have the VOHC seal from the Veterinary Oral Hygiene Council are certified safe for your dog.

The ingredients in the dental hygiene chew you give your dog also make a difference.

Quality dental hygiene chews contain no gluten, wheat, corn, soybeans, or poultry by-products.

Poultry byproducts will give your dog bad breath. Dogs prefer chews with a meaty flavor, but owners prefer brands that have a pleasant (not overwhelming) odor.

Chews in an “X” or “Z” shape give your dog the best grip on the treat for maximum chewing and cleaning.

Edible rawhide chews also prevent the progression of dental problems.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry found that dogs given one edible rawhide chew every day had 19 percent less plaque formation and 28 percent less tartar buildup.

These effects are not available to dogs that swallow their rawhide chews whole or who consume them too quickly.

If you decide to give your dog rawhide chews, make sure to supervise them.

The main issue is large dogs tend to swallow the last bit whole which can present a choking hazard.

If your dog eats too fast, rawhide chews may not achieve their intended purpose.

There are probiotic dental chews that include strains of bacteria that fight the strains of bacteria that form plaque.

They are more successful in reducing bad breath than they are for other canine dental concerns. But they slightly reduce both plaque and tartar.

Dogs can swallow liquids, but they can’t swish them around in their mouths.

Dental water for dogs, more commonly known as doggie mouthwash, is designed to kill bacteria with chemicals or essential oils of herbs mixed in water.

The product you buy for your dog will be 99.8 to 99.9 percent water and 0.1 to 0.2 percent plaque-killing additive.

These products give your dog sweeter breath, and they measurably reduce plaque formation.

They will not reduce existing tartar or help clear up gingivitis.

Dental wax helps bacteria slide off teeth. One study found that applying dental wax to a dog’s teeth several times a week reduced tartar accumulation by 22 percent.

Dental wax was effective even if owners did not use it on their dog’s teeth seven days a week, but the procedure for applying it requires the same level of rapport with the dog as brushing its teeth.

Dental wipes for dogs remove plaque but not tartar. They are as hard to use as toothpaste but slightly less effective.

The most effective home treatment for preventing plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and periodontal disease in dogs is brushing your dog’s teeth.

Brushing slows down the production of plaque. It slows down the formation of tartar.

Unlike the other methods listed above, brushing your dog’s teeth can also improve the symptoms of gingivitis.

Brushing your dog’s teeth eliminates up to 68 percent of the plaque that becomes tartar, far more than any other home remedy for canine dental care.

The question most people ask about brushing is “How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?” Is a couple of times a month enough? What about once a week?

A clinical trial found that the benefits of tooth brushing for dogs begin in just four weeks, but brushing once a month or once a week is not enough.

The benefits of brushing in dental care for dogs are realized by brushing your dog’s teeth every day.

However, two to three times a week will suffice although the results won’t be as good as a daily brush.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

When veterinarians raise the subject of brushing your dog’s teeth, the question they are most likely to hear is “Do I really need to brush my dog’s teeth?”

The answer is simple. Yes, you really do.

Dogs need to have their teeth brushed daily. Weekly brushing is not enough to make a difference.

As mentioned above, other home methods of canine dental care make a difference. But brushing your dog’s teeth will remove three times as much plaque as any other method you can use at home.

The combination of brushing your dog’s teeth every day with annual dental check-ups reduces the formation of plaque and tartar that can lead to gingivitis, periodontal disease, dental abscesses, and systemic infections.

These infections can spread to other organs, such as the valves of your dog’s heart, liver, and kidneys.

You can’t achieve any of these objectives, of course, until you make sure your dogs are comfortable with your opening their mouth.

By opening their mouth, you can detect early stages of gingivitis, or even if their breath changes.

You can bring any dental care issues to the attention of your veterinarian while they are still easy (and relatively inexpensive) to treat.

What Do You Need To Brush Your Dog's Teeth?

There are several things you will need for brushing your dog’s teeth. Let’s start with the obvious.

Toothpaste For Canine Dental Care

First, you will need toothpaste. Toothpaste designed for humans won’t do for dogs.

The problem is, no matter how brilliant your dog is, you cannot teach him to rinse. Dogs have to swallow the toothpaste you use to brush their teeth.

This means that the chemicals in human toothpaste can get into a dog’s general circulation when the product is used to brush teeth in dogs.

One major problem ingredient in human toothpaste is xylitol. Xylitol is used as a sweetener in toothpaste,  chewing gum, and a range of other products.

It is highly toxic to dogs.

Dog-favored flavors include chicken and beef. If your dog enjoys the taste of their toothpaste, it will be easier for you to brush their teeth.

Similarly, dogs don’t mind if their toothpaste does not make a foam in their mouth.

Many of the chemicals added to toothpaste for people to make it foamy are highly irritating to dogs.

Humans spit out toothpaste so the worst that the sodium lauryl sulfate foaming agent in it can do is to irritate the tongue, mouth, and lips.

Dogs have to swallow toothpaste so sodium lauryl sulfate can cause irritation throughout the digestive tract.

Toothpaste for dogs must not include foaming agents such as the previously mentioned sodium lauryl sulfate or disinfectant triclosan.

The Right Toothbrush For Your Dog

Next, you will need a toothbrush designed for dogs. Human toothbrushes have the bristles set to brush up and down the teeth.

Dog toothbrushes have tapered bristles set at an angle to the handle so you can brush across your dog’s teeth.

Dogs of different sizes need different-sized toothbrushes. There are toothbrushes that are designed for big dogs as well as toothbrushes designed for small dogs.

You may prefer to buy a dual-ended toothbrush with both sizes of brush on opposite ends of the handle so you can use the same toothbrush as your dog grows.

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth The Easy Way.

Your dog will not like having his teeth brushed the first time you try.

Don’t be hesitant to spend several days doing just part of your tooth-brushing routine. This will give your dog time to feel comfortable with the procedure.

Start by gently touching your dog’s teeth with your finger. Make sure to use a lot of praise and even a few treats to sweeten the deal.

Next, use a washcloth and wipe your dog’s teeth. Once he or she is comfortable with that, you can move on to a finger toothbrush and finally to a regular dog toothbrush.

Once you reach the toothbrush stage, put a little dog toothpaste on the dog toothbrush, and see how your dog likes the taste.

If the taste is acceptable, put some more toothpaste on the toothbrush and brush across the outside of the dog’s teeth.

A triple-headed brush will allow you to brush the inside of your dog’s teeth at the same time as the exterior.

What Are The Dangers Of Not Using A Dental Routine?

If there is no dental routine, the chances are that your dog will eventually lose all its teeth.

Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Doxies (Dachshunds) for example, are prone to oral problems.

Nobody wants a toothless dog and probably no dog wants to be toothless, but it is not the most horrible possible result.

Losing a tooth stops periodontal disease. Some dogs that have severe periodontal disease are better off toothless than undergoing extractions and root canals under general anesthesia.

A dog can function and even have a good life if it has no teeth. But the process of losing teeth is painful and prolonged, and infections that escape into the bloodstream can cause organ failure and even death.

Once your dog’s teeth reach the stage of medical intervention, the only way to stop dental pain is with dental treatment.

Veterinary dental treatments can be painfully expensive. How expensive? Here are some examples:

Anesthesia-free dental checkups and cleanings cost from $200 to $500 in the USA.

The average cost of an anesthesia-free tooth cleaning for dogs by veterinary technicians (usually at grooming centers or pet stores) is $292.

Some states do not allow technicians to do cleanings at all, and your dog will have to be treated by a veterinarian, for closer to $500.

Dental checkups and cleanings that have to be done under anesthesia.

This includes a visit that requires x-rays since the dog has to be still to get a good image on the x-ray and cost from $600 to $100.

Extractions can cost from $600 to $1200, and root canals can cost $1000 each.

There are many additional treatments you can use at home, food and water additives, wipes, and chews but by far the most effective is brushing.

Brushing your dog’s teeth takes less than a minute a day. Brushing can prevent needless pain for your pet.

It can build a bond between you and your dog. And it can save you thousands of dollars in veterinary bills.

Rawhide chew for dog dental

Some Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Care for Dogs

At what age can dogs get dental disease?

Nearly all dogs show some symptoms of gum disease by the age of three years.

Gingivitis is rare in puppies, but it can occur before the dog’s first birthday in toy and miniature breeds.

How can you tell the difference between plaque and tartar?

Plaque comes off your dog’s teeth when they are wiped or brushed. Tartar does not.

How do you remove hardened plaque from your dog's teeth at home?

Hardened plaque beneath the gum line needs to be removed with sharp instruments.

You should not attempt to clean your dog’s teeth in any way that would remove tartar.

Sudden motion, while you have a sharp instrument in your dog’s mouth, can injure your dog, yourself, or both of you.

What is enzymatic dog toothpaste?

Enzymatic toothpastes for dogs usually contain two enzymes called glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase.

Glucose oxidase acts on the glucose in food particles stuck on your dog’s teeth to release hydrogen peroxide.

This tiny amount of hydrogen peroxide is enough to kill germs. Lactoperoxidase can release hydrogen peroxide from almost any kind of food a dog is likely to eat.

It adds to the antibacterial effect of glucose peroxidase.

What is the reason for an anesthesia-free dental cleaning?

Most veterinarians prefer and some veterinarians insist on putting your dog under general anesthesia to do any kind of dental care.

It is impossible to get good x-rays if your dog wiggles and squirms, and pain from probing around a dog’s teeth may cause them to bite.

Topical anesthetics such as lidocaine and procaine (Novocaine) do not give enough pain relief for extractions and root canals. The problem is that some dogs have issues with anesthesia.

Miniature Schnauzers, Norwich Terriers, Pharaoh Hounds, Scottish Deerhounds, and Salukis are very excitable as they are going under and coming out of anesthesia.

They can easily injure themselves or the staff of the veterinary clinic. Almost any dog that is given general anesthesia needs 24 to 48 hours to recover fully.

Is anesthesia-free dental care for dogs as effective as treatment under anesthesia?

A veterinarian (or, in some states, a veterinary technician) can get your dog’s teeth pearly white with an anesthesia-free treatment.

The limitation of this procedure is that is it impossible to remove tartar under the gumline without anesthesia, and this is the kind of tartar that causes gingivitis that can lead to periodontal disease.

If anesthesia-free cleaning doesn't remove tartar under the gum line and my dog can't have anesthesia, what is there to do?

Brushing your dog’s teeth every day stops the accumulation of even more plaque that can lead to even more damage to your dog’s gums and teeth.

Daily brushing relieves the pain of gingivitis.

Daily tooth brushing may not stop periodontal disease if cleaning is not possible, but it can keep your dog a lot more comfortable while slowing down the progression of the disease.

If you have enjoyed this article, or know someone whose doggy has bad breath or teeth, please share it with them.