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I’ve Never Brushed My Dog’s Teeth: 5 Excuses & Vet Approved Care Tips

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

vet is brushing the teeth of a Welsh corgi

I’ve Never Brushed My Dog’s Teeth: 5 Excuses & Vet Approved Care Tips


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

BVM BVS MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We’ve all kind of just accepted that our dogs will eat the most revolting things and then give us kisses. But why? After all, seeing the kinds of things they are willing to chew on, we should be rushing to give their teeth a good brush.

But many owners are still surprised that our dogs actually need to have their teeth brushed. Wait—wolves didn’t brush their teeth, so why do I have to brush my dog’s? There are some common excuses we all use, but we have our reasons for encouraging brushing and the science agrees. So, if you haven’t been scrubbing your canine’s canines, let us convince you.

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The 5 Excuses Owners Make

You probably have a good reason if you’re a dog owner who doesn’t brush your dog’s teeth. While everyone is different, these are the most common excuses people use when explaining why they don’t brush their dog’s teeth.

1. The Teeth Look Healthy, Look How White They Are!

Some people think that just because their dog’s teeth look healthy and white, they don’t really need to brush them. Young dogs often have very clean, excellent-looking smiles, so it’s no wonder this is often overlooked initially.

But like everything else, if you don’t take care of your dog’s teeth, they’re absolutely going to develop build-up and disease over time, even if you can’t see it.

Young woman and her Husky in Hawaii
Image Credit: zjuzjaka, Shutterstock

2. I’m Not Getting Anywhere Near That Mouth With My Hands!

Our dogs can be downright crazy creatures. With the power that they have in their jaws, it’s no wonder that some people just don’t want to be involved in that. After all, dogs will likely not enjoy the brushing process and could try to bite your hand as a consequence. This could make it very complicated for some dog owners.

3. My Dog Won’t Ever Hold Still!

If your dog is flailing all around, it might not really seem like it’s worth the fight. However, it is definitely not something that should be overlooked just because your dog isn’t in the mood. There are other ways you can offer your dog self-cleaning methods to ensure that they are getting their teeth cleaned. This is a great time to purchase dental hygiene toys.

Person holding cute dog in his arms
Image Credit: Makistock, Shutterstock

4. I Didn’t Know I Was Supposed to Brush a Dog’s Teeth

Some owners simply don’t know that they’re supposed to brush their dog’s teeth. It was never something that was done with dogs in their home during their childhood and it isn’t a practice that they carry over into dog ownership today.

This has nothing to do with the type of owner you are, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad owner if you haven’t ever brushed your dog’s teeth. But we are always learning new things about how to best care for our dogs, and that includes brushing their teeth.

5. I Didn’t Know There Were Health Consequences to Not Brushing

A lot of people might not be aware that their dog’s teeth can go bad if they don’t take care of them. They really don’t understand the health consequences associated with it. But the great thing about not knowing about a certain subject is that it’s never too late to get educated!

You’re taking the right steps toward proper canine care by researching all aspects of health and why they are important.

young veterinarian woman examining teeth and mouth of cute lovely pomeranian dog at veterinary clinic
Image Credit: Josep Suria, Shutterstock

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Why You Should Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

You might be wondering, “So, what happens if I don’t brush my dog’s teeth?” We’re glad you’re asking, and we have the answers!

If you need some convincing about why you should brush your dog’s teeth, allow us to provide some information. Ultimately, taking your dog’s dental health seriously will benefit both you and your pooch.

Prevent Bad Breath

The biggest perk is that brushing your dog’s teeth can help cut back on bad breath. This is a common complaint of many canine owners, but prevention is simple.

If you routinely brush your dog’s teeth and make sure they have an appropriate diet, their breath really shouldn’t smell that bad. If you do notice bad breath, this warrants a vet visit, as it could be an indicator of a more serious dental disease.

Removes Plaque

A build-up of plaque on the teeth can quickly turn into tartar. If your dog starts developing tartar, it solidifies on the teeth and leads to tooth decay.  Tartar cannot be removed by simple tooth brushing, so it is important to get started on teeth that haven’t yet got any build up.

dog with brown teeth
Image Credit: PixieMe, Shutterstock

Avoid Periodontal Disease

Practicing good oral hygiene will lessen your dog’s risk of experiencing dental health issues when they are older. Over 80% of dogs over the age of three have active dental disease. Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the structures that surround the tooth and it is caused by the build up of bacteria in the mouth. When your dog develops dental disease, it can greatly impact their daily lives because it can be very painful. It can be prevented by daily tooth brushing.

Dental disease can cause signs like:
  • Loose teeth
  • Smelly breath
  • Inflamed gums
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Reduced appetite
  • Favoring one side to chew
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Heart disease through infection spread

Extend Your Dog’s Lifespan

Proper dental hygiene could significantly improve your dog’s quality and quantity of life. While it might not make much sense when you first hear it, the science behind it is solid. Our dogs’ mouths harbor a lot of bacteria.

When this bacteria builds up inside of the oral cavity, it can cause all sorts of nasty issues. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream and lodge on the valves of the heart. This is a serious condition known as endocarditis. This is not a common condition but it is a possible consequence of poor dental hygiene.

Reduce Vet Costs

If you take good care of your dog’s mouth, it can greatly decrease the amount you spend on vet care. If your dog starts developing dental disease, a vet needs to take care of that. This could result in very costly fixes and expensive checkups and dental procedures.

veterinarian examines a dog teeth
Image Credit: Yavdat, Shutterstock

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How to Care for Your Dog’s Teeth

There are several ways you can make sure your dog’s teeth are getting the attention that they require. Here are a few suggestions.

Acclimate Your Dog Early

The earlier your dog gets used to brushing, the more quickly you can develop a solid routine. If you can, start out when your dog is a puppy, so you don’t have to train them later in life. Of course, some of our dogs don’t come into our lives until they’re a bit older. But don’t get discouraged! It’s never too late to learn.

Get the Right Brushing Method

There isn’t just one way to brush your dog’s teeth. You can support dental health without really getting your hands dirty. If your dog really doesn’t take well to you brushing their teeth, you can get them “toothbrushes” designed to brush while they gnaw away.

If your dog is cooperative, you can always use a finger toothbrush to get into all the nooks and crannies. Ultimately, it will be whatever your dog tolerates.

You can buy finger toothbrushes on sites like Chewy. Here is a solid option—the Jasper Finger Dog Toothbrush. Brushing your dog’s teeth is superior to any other method such as chews and toys, but if your dog really won’t tolerate tooth brushing, there are other options to try.

One option is a delightful toy for them to enjoy. A good example is this CERISURIO Toothbrush for Dogs. While your dog chews, the built-in bristles will give them a lovely clean. With the design, it can reach hard-to-get spaces.

Alternatively, you can buy a snack that also doubles as a cleaning item. One option is Greenie’s Original. You can buy them in bulk and they will help to remove plaque and tartar.

Follow Up with Vet Care

When you take your dog into the vet for their checkups, always make sure your vet examines their teeth. While your vet should perform this as a standard procedure, you can always bring it up if you have any questions or concerns.

vet checking dog teeth
Image Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

Consider Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is growing in popularity all the time. As vet costs increase, pet parents are looking for relief in any form. Before any kind of issue even develops with your dog, it is pretty important to decide if you want to be covered or not.

If you don’t have pet insurance, once a condition arises it will be considered a preexisting condition and will no longer qualify for coverage if you do get pet insurance in the future. That’s why so many pet parents are choosing to get coverage for their cats and dogs before they ever even know there’s a problem.  Many insurance policies don’t cover dental procedures due to dental disease as it is classified as a preventable disease.  Check the small print of your insurance so you know just what it covers.

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Hopefully, this article has helped you understand why dental care for canines is so important. Thankfully, more and more vet offices are educating their patients about the importance of dental care so the owners can make better decisions for their dogs. Remember, some insurance companies cover dental care where others do not. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to look into getting your pup on a policy, but read the small print before committing.

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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