Do you know how to brush puppy teeth? Or perhaps you’re wondering…should you brush a dog’s teeth? It’s a fair question and one that gets quite a lot of conflicting answers.

The truth is, puppy teeth cleaning doesn’t have to be an ordeal, but keeping your puppy’s teeth clean is something you definitely should consider. Better sooner rather than getting a whopping taste of bad breath. 

But as you can imagine, puppy teeth cleaning can be a bit tricky. Especially since they’re at the stage where everything that comes into their mouths should be shredded. But if you’re persistent and patient, it can be done. Anything can be done, really. 

In this puppy teeth cleaning guide we’re going to pull you out of your doubts like a wisdom tooth. We’ll cover:

  • Why you should you brush a dog’s teeth 
  • How do a puppy teeth cleaning
  • Things to look out for when puppy teeth cleaning

Teaching your puppy handling and grooming exercises is something to start when they’re young so that they learn to accept them well. A step by step training programme will always help you get the hang of it. Like we have for you in the Zigzag puppy training app. Before you know it, brushing your puppy’s teeth, or grooming, in general, will be easy as pie. Oh, and our team of puppy training coaches will always be ready to rescue you if you get stuck on anything. 

Okay. Let’s sink our teeth into it.

white puppy smiling with teeth
Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

Why do I need to clean my puppy’s teeth?

Let’s get back to your original question: Should you brush a dog’s teeth? The easy answer is yes. Here’s why:

Teeth cleaning allows you to check puppy teeth and dental health

Puppies lose their baby teeth at around 5 months of age. By doing a daily round of puppy teeth cleaning, you can keep track of whether their second set of teeth are coming through or if they’re retaining any of their baby teeth.

Brushing your puppy’s teeth also means you can check on their dental health and look for any signs of any nasties like gingivitis, gum disease, tooth decay and tartar. Small problems can get big pretty quickly like leading your puppy to losing their teeth when older or the infection going down into the jaw bone. Ouch!

Some dog breeds are more prone to teeth and dental problems; either due to their skull shape making the teeth misaligned or just down to genetics. Ask your vet about this – there might be extra things you might want to keep track of.

Dental hygiene is essential to keep on top of. Puppy toothbrushes are great tools to start with, but you can also buy all sorts of other things like specific dental chews, dental cleaning pads, water additives and even a puppy dental foam! There are also dental chew toys that doggy toothpaste can be squeezed into that brush puppy teeth as your puppy chews on them.

golden puppy showing off their bottom teeth
Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash

How to clean my puppy’s teeth

Puppy teeth cleaning is a step by step process. But as with all new things with puppies, the first step is to help them feel comfortable. Most puppies will not be hugely happy if you dive straight in with a toothbrush and toothpaste and need to be taught that brushing their teeth is actually not a bad thing, and can actually be a rather nice thing. 

Let’s be honest. None of us like other people messing around in our mouths, and puppies are no different. Let’s break it down into manageable steps:

  1. Start off making sure your puppy is happy being handled around their mouth. Do this by teaching them that hands are not horrible things trying to ruin their day. Instead, they’re wonderful things that will get them treats when they come toward their mouth.
  2. At the start, try lifting their lip so that you can see their teeth and then give them a treat afterwards. That’s all you need to do, to begin with. For now, we don’t need to open their mouths wide like they’re at the dentist!
  3. See if your puppy will let you rub their gums or touch their teeth with a finger and reward them with a yummy treat. If you’re not sure what treats to use, check out our article on healthy puppy treats to get a full review. Spoiler alert: the stinkier the better. 
  4. Now, try popping some toothpaste on your finger and see if your puppy will lick it off. Doing this will help them get used to the taste, but we do recommend something quite meaty flavoured, your puppy probably doesn’t favour minty fresh breath, to your disappointment. Maybe you can get used to meaty breath for a change. 
  5. Next, try using one of the finger toothbrushes with some of the toothpaste you used before and see if your poppy will lick it off.
  6. See if you can lightly rub on your puppy gum or teeth with the finger toothbrush.
  7. That’s it! Keep practising this every day with the goal that it’s a nice thing for your puppy to experience. If they walk away, let them go off and come back to it later.
  8. Most importantly, don’t give up, even if progress feels slow at first. You can always make an exercise easier if your puppy is struggling with it, but we would encourage you to keep up with the practice so that puppy teeth cleaning is no big deal.
  9. You can switch to a doggy toothbrush later once your puppy is happy with using the finger toothbrush. 

PRO TIP: If your puppy backs away or feels uncomfortable at any point, take a step back, nice and easy. Let them get away, and continue on at a later at a slower pace to get your puppy used to the sensation and taste of puppy teeth cleaning.

puppy yawning and showing off their baby teeth
Photo by Abigail Clarke on Unsplash

What to look out for whilst brushing your puppy’s teeth

When you’re brushing your puppy’s teeth, keep your eyes open for a few things that can indicate some dental disease. If you’re concerned, always talk to your vet. 

Signs that your puppy might have dental problems can be:

  • Bad breath – you know the one. Mouths and teeth often smell if infected
  • Gums may be bleed if they become diseased 
  • Brown or yellow deposits on teeth
  • Refusing food – if their teeth or mouth or sore they’ll be less likely to want to eat.

If you have an older puppy or dog, don’t worry – you can teach them to enjoy having their teeth cleaned at any age if taught with patience and care. Oh, and of course, using the Zigzag guiding principles, positive reinforcement training. Dogs do what they find rewarding, so teaching them that teeth cleaning is no big deal will get you there in no time.

We hope we’ve filled you in like a cavity, and have found this guide on puppy teeth cleaning helpful. While you’re here, why not check out our guide on when puppies lose their teeth? We also have heaps of other articles on grooming, handling, and training in our Zigzag puppy training app. If you get stuck (or your finger gets stuck inside your puppy’s mouth when brushing), pop over to the ‘My Coach’ section in the app and ask our team of puppy training coaches any questions you may have. They’ll be happy to lend you a hand, foot, or anything else. 

Happy puppy teeth cleaning!