Tips to Brush Your Pet's Teeth


By Curtis Stiles, DVM, DAVDC


It has been said that “prevention is the best medicine.” This is certainly true when discussing periodontal disease in cats and dogs. The “gold standard” for prevention is brushing, but it has been estimated that less than 10% (Linick S., Veterinary Economics, Feb. 1, 2010) of pet owners brush their pet’s teeth daily. Following are some tips to help you develop an effective, successful, less stressful brushing routine with your pet.

  • Introduce brushing is when your pet is young and more malleable. Ask your veterinarian how to brush during one of your first puppy or kitten visits.
  • Understand why it’s important: The bacteria in the plaque film that forms on your pets’ teeth cause gingivitis that can lead to gum and bone recession, eventually resulting in the loss of teeth. Brushing will remove the film before it turns into tartar, and may prevent tooth loss in the future.
  • Focus your attention on the outside surfaces of the teeth. The tongue usually does a good job of keeping the inside surfaces clean, and most pets dislike having their mouths opened.
  • Lift your pet’s lips and brush his/her mouth when it is closed. A lot of pets do not appreciate having their mouths forced open and the mandibular teeth that are obscured by the maxillary teeth when the mouth is closed do not tend to develop significant plaque deposition.
  • Try to brush your pet’s teeth at least once daily about the same time every day and follow the brushing with a reward. 


Additional tips for more resistant pets – frequently the small breed dogs that are very prone to developing significant periodontal disease:     

  • First get your pet used to letting you touch his/her face and lift his/her lips.
  • Reward your pet to provide an additional comfort level and incentive.
  • Introduce the brush over time, sometimes over weeks or even months, to allow your pet to get used to it.
  • Only use the brush. Do not put toothpaste on the brush (because the toothpaste is flavored a lot of pets try to eat the brush, thus making the brushing more difficult). A soft bristled brush that is appropriate for the size of the pet’s mouth should be run under warm water to soften the bristles before brushing.
  • Move the brush in small circles or back and forth on the visible teeth with the bristles angled towards the gum line and the mouth closed.
  • Smear the toothpaste on the teeth after brushing. For some animals this can be their treat after getting their teeth brushed. 
  • Remember to only use a pet toothpaste because human toothpaste can be harmful when swallowed.
  • Water additives, dental treats and diets are great additional home care choices for those pets where brushing is not a feasible option and for pets that have persistent periodontal issues despite regular brushing.

 For more information about Angell Animal Medical Center’s Dentistry service, please visit To make an appointment, please call 617-524-5643