Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

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Looking after your puppy’s teeth

Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS
Reading time: 2 minutes

It’s important to start good dental habits early to help maintain healthy teeth. Ideally, you should brush your puppy’s teeth every day, which will also help to prevent painful gum inflammation, tooth loss and infections later in life.

Build positive associations

The first step is getting your puppy used to having their mouth touched. Start gently by dipping your finger into something like gravy, chicken broth, or another liquid your dog may like to taste.

Call your puppy with a tone of voice that means ‘treat’ and let them lick the liquid off your finger. Then run your finger gently over your puppy’s teeth and gums. After a few sessions, your puppy should start looking forward to this ritual.

Introduce texture

Now, place a thin piece of gauze around your finger and dip it into the flavoured liquid. Then, gently move that finger over your puppy’s teeth in a circular motion. Repeat this for several sessions until it feels comfortable with the procedure. Remember to continue praising your dog and to keep an upbeat attitude.

When your puppy is accustomed to having the flavoured gauze in its mouth, move on to a dog toothbrush, a soft child’s toothbrush, or a thimble brush.

Allow your puppy to lick something tasty off the brush to get them used to the consistency — especially the bristles on a brush.

Choose the right toothpaste

Now add a little pet toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste as the fluoride can irritate your puppy’s stomach and the froth often causes distress. Pet toothpastes are usually flavoured with poultry or malt.

Again, take things slowly to get your puppy used to the flavour and consistency of the toothpaste. Let your dog lick some off your finger and then apply some to their gum-line with your finger.


Now you can start the actual brushing. Talk to your puppy in a happy voice during the process and praise them at the end. Start by gently brushing one or both upper canine teeth (the large ones in the front of the mouth). You don’t have to scrub hard — the toothpaste has a chemical action.

The most challenging teeth to reach are the larger molars at the back of the mouth. To reach these, you will need to draw your puppy’s lips back. Some don’t like this, but by inserting the brush inside the cheek, you may be able to reach these teeth.

Either way, don’t forget about the molars, as they are the most common areas for gum disease secondary to tartar build-up.

Finally, remember to book an annual dental check-up so that your vet can spot any problems as soon as possible. You may need to do this for your insurance, too.

Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

Brian graduated from Edinburgh Vet School in 1995 and worked in mixed practice before studying for an MBA at Nottingham Business School in 2000/2001. After setting up and developing numerous veterinary practices in Suffolk in the 2000s, Brian was awarded the Petplan-UK Vet of the Year in 2008 after having been runner-up in 2007. Brian is currently the Petplan Pet Insurance media and PR vet and works in his own small animal veterinary practice 3 days a week. During his 20 year career Brian has worked in over 250 veterinary practices as a clinician, consultant and confidence coach.

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