The build up of plaque and tartar on dogs' teeth is a common problem that can lead to painful gum disease and lost teeth. The most effective way to help prevent doggie dental problems is daily brushing, which removes plaque and food deposits between your pet's teeth and gums.
Puppies and older dogs usually accept brushing if you take a steady, gentle approach. At first wipe your dog's teeth with a piece of washcloth twice a day for a couple of weeks. When you start using a toothbrush, dip it in warm water -- add toothpaste after a few days -- and gently clean the outside of his teeth and gums with a circular motion. Canine toothbrushes with long handles and angled heads are easiest to use; finger brushes, which fit onto your fingertip, are good for smaller dogs' mouths. Never use human toothpaste, as the foaming agents in them shouldn't be swallowed and your pet can't spit. Dog toothpastes are designed to be ingested and come in appetizing flavors such as chicken, malt and liver.
Disinfectant wipes can clean plaque off the surface of dogs' teeth if their gums are too sensitive to allow brushing, though they don't get to food stuck in the gum sockets. If your dog won't accept brushing, chewing regularly on proper dental chews can help to reduce plaque by up to 69 percent, VeterinaryPartner.com reports. Always see a veterinarian when your dog has more advanced dental disease and for annual checkups.