What’s the first thing you might notice when a dog comes bounding up towards you, tail wagging? That’s right – their smile. So when it comes to their pearly whites, you always want to make sure you’re staying on top of your dog’s dental care. Because while you may be regularly exercising your dog and giving them the best meals, it’s pretty easy to overlook their dental health.

So just like humans need a proper tooth brushing routine, our furry friends also need a little extra attention for healthy teeth and gums. In this post, we’re going to share some simple steps to get started with dental care for your dog. Let’s get our buddies a gleaming, healthy smile!

5 reasons why your dog’s dental care is worth the investment

Much like us humans, neglecting your dog’s dental care will cost you in the long run. Here are a couple of reasons why it’s worth the long-term investment.

A friendly dog with an open mouth, revealing their teeth

1) Regular care prevents your dog from developing dental diseases

Skipping your dog’s regular teeth brushing can lead to a range of dental problems, including: 

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental issues in dogs. Keep an eye out for bad breath, swollen gums, or loose teeth.1 Periodontal disease is when the tissues surrounding your dog’s teeth (including the gums and bone) get infected and inflamed. This condition usually develops as a result of plaque buildup which leads to the formation of tartar. Left untreated, these lead to periodontal disease.


Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease and also caused by plaque buildup. Keep an eye out for inflamed gums, which look red, swollen, or might be bleeding.2


Stomatitis is a more serious form of gingivitis.3 It’s when your dog’s mouth, gums, tongue, and throat are severely inflamed. This condition can cause your dog pain while eating and might lead to difficulties grooming themselves. Your dog might refuse meals due to the pain, refuse to open their mouth, or drool excessively. Their breath might also smell unpleasant.

Tooth decay

Neglecting your dog’s dental care might lead to cavities and infections.4 Just like humans, dogs are also vulnerable to bacterial infections of their teeth (especially their molars.) 

Many of these dental problems develop as a result of plaque buildup, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on dogs’ teeth (and ours!) if we don’t brush them regularly. Left untreated, it can harden into tartar, which leads to even worse dental problems over time. 

These conditions can cause your dog unbearable pain and discomfort. And worse, they can lead to even more serious health issues if you don’t take action early on.

2) Preventing your dog’s dental diseases helps you avoid more serious conditions

A woman pats a smiling dog

Proper dental care isn’t just for maintaining your dog’s smile. Rather, left untreated, dental problems can lead to bacterial infections that may spread to other parts of the body.5 These include the heart, liver, and kidneys – which can result in even worse and more serious health complications, including:

Cardiovascular issues

Dental bacteria can potentially reach your dog’s heart valves and cause infection.6 This might potentially cause endocarditis (or an inflammation of the heart lining) or even heart failure, in some cases.

Respiratory problems

If your dog inhales the bacteria from a dental infection, they might develop respiratory problems including coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. Over time, this could lead to more serious conditions like bronchitis.7 

Damage to your dog’s jaw bones

Advanced dental diseases might result in conditions like bone infections and even fractures. Over time, this can make it difficult for your dog to eat.

But by making regular dental care a part of your dog’s health routine, you help prevent these issues from worsening over time. Which enhances their health overall.

3) You’re helping your dog develop better, healthier habits

Dental pain can debilitate your dog’s quality of life and overall wellbeing. You might observe their behavior changing – your once-cheerful buddy might now seem irritable and grumpy. They might not eat as much before and might even encounter difficulties sleeping from the pain.

But in many cases, it’s easy to miss out on these signs. Many times, your dog might seem happy and healthy – even when they’re struggling with a health problem. And often, your dog’s outward signs of discomfort might only emerge when their dental problems have worsened.

With regular activity and sleep monitoring, you can keep an eye out for changes in your dog’s behavior. It’s what Tractive pet parents are doing around the world to stay on top of their dogs’ health and wellbeing – and take action early on.

Here’s a story from one of Tractive’s own pet parents – who caught on to an illness early on from her dog’s Wellness profile:

I’ve chosen Tractive to have an extra layer of monitoring for my service dogs (ADL & PTSD). I keep track of them daily because their health is important to me. They can only keep me healthy and happy and do their job if they’re happy and healthy! So it’s a great way to monitor activity and to know when you can train more intensely and when they might need a rest.

Levi, a PTSD-trained service dog, with her Tractive GPS

Evi, my PTSD dog was the first to try it out. And after three and a half weeks of using, and finally really trusting the data that Tractive gave me, I found out she was sick before I could even really see it. Her sleep quality suddenly drastically decreased from around 90% to 60% and her active minutes dropped by about 50 a day.

So even though she still looked happy and healthy, my Tractive device stated otherwise. So I went to the vet with this information. They took me and Tractive seriously…and it turned out she had the beginning of an infection in her ears!

My Tractive GPS is a part of my primary gear now – and I don’t want it any other way.

Get Tractive GPS

4) A simple dental care routine will save you money in the long run

Preventing dental diseases is significantly more cost-effective than expensive dental treatments like extractions or other medical interventions. You will have some upfront costs at the beginning (especially for dog-friendly dental products.) But in the long run, you’ll save significantly more than having to pay for advanced (and completely preventable) dental diseases. 

For example, with regular brushing, you can prevent dental diseases that might warrant expensive medical procedures needing anesthesia. Putting your dog under may come with its health risks8, so it’s always smart to minimize its use as much as possible.

5) Caring for your dog’s teeth can add to a longer, healthier life

By taking steps to build a regular dental care routine with your dog, you can detect any tooth trouble early on – and prevent them from getting worse over time. This further prevents any other infections or health problems they might develop as a result. 

Which doesn’t mean more clean-smelling kisses for you, but a longer, happier, healthier life for your furry friend. With a healthy set of teeth, your dog can eat, play, and interact without the pain and discomfort of dental issues and enjoy a better quality of life.

6 easy dog dental care tips to get started

Like any habit, once you’ve fallen into the rhythm of caring for your dog’s teeth, it’ll get easier and more fun over time. So here are a couple of dental care tips for your dog to get started:

1) Get your dog used to “brushing”

Your dog might feel nervous or overwhelmed at you suddenly getting your hands in their mouth. So we’d actually recommend just using your hands first to gently touch their teeth to get them used to the sensation. Lift up the upper flap of their lip and move your hands in gentle, circular motions over their teeth – like you would with a toothbrush.

Now your dog might be at least a bit weirded out by this new experience. So make sure to praise and encourage them as much as you can to help them feel more relaxed and safe. If at any point your dog shows signs of anxiety, back off and give them a little time before you resume.

A woman praises her dog by patting their head

Most importantly: start slow and build up gradually. Most dogs might take a few weeks (if not a month) just to get used to the process. Over time, you can move from using your hands to cleaning their teeth with a dental wipe. And with a bit of patience, you’ll have a dog who looks forward to regular brushing sessions in no time.

2) Use dog-friendly dental products

We’d only recommend using dental products once you feel like your dog might be comfortable with it. Make sure you invest in dog-friendly toothbrushes and toothpaste. (As products built for humans won’t work the same way.) In some cases, like with toothpaste, they can even be harmful to your dog if they accidentally swallow it.

Dog-friendly toothbrushes

Ideally, you should use a soft-bristle brush with a longer handle that can reach your dog’s back teeth.

Dog-friendly toothpastes

Some toothpastes come in dog-friendly flavors (like peanut butter or poultry) if your dog is a picky eater. We also recommend using an enzymatic toothpaste, as these come with antibacterial properties.

Remember: your dog won’t naturally spit out their toothpaste the way us humans do while brushing. So make sure to avoid toothpastes that contain harmful chemicals like fluoride or xylitol, which may be toxic to your dog.

If you’re stuck, check in with your local vet who can recommend some dog-friendly products that might be available where you are.

3) Brush your dog’s teeth regularly

Get your dog comfortable with their new toothbrush and toothpaste first – let them sniff it and inspect it thoroughly before you begin. (And if you’ve picked one with a yummy flavor, they’ll warm up to it even faster!) Once they’re more accustomed to them, let’s get brushing:

  • Start by lifting the flap of your dog’s lips and gently exposing their teeth. Use slow, gradual motions to reduce any anxiety your dog might feel. 
  • Use a small amount of toothpaste at first and brush just your dog’s front teeth.
  • Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your dog’s teeth. Brush in gentle, circular motions and focus on their gum line. (That’s where the plaque tends to accumulate.)
  • As your dog slowly gets more comfortable with regular brushing, pay special attention to their back molars. (These are vulnerable to tartar buildup.)
  • Gradually increase the duration and number of teeth you brush during each session.
A dog's open mouth, showing their tongue and teeth

How often should you brush your dog’s teeth? Experts recommend it around 2-3 times a week. But while brushing, if you notice any signs of redness, swelling, bleeding, loose teeth, or bad breath, make sure to check in with your local vet immediately.

4) Invest in dental chews

A common question dog parents often wonder is: what to do if my dog just hates brushing? Well, if your dog’s a fussy bather, they might object to tooth cleaning sessions too. So here’s a smart, convenient alternative: dental chews. Designed with textured, durable materials, these encourage dogs to chew and help scrape away plaque.

With your dog chomping on a dental chew or toy all day long, the saliva they produce helps keep your dog’s breath fresh and their teeth clean. These products also massage the gums and get rid of food particles. 

Dental chews that contain delmopinol are a great option, since it helps fight against common dental problems like bacterial infections and plaque buildup. Some dental chews include ingredients like mint which can help your dog’s breath smell better.

Keep in mind that dental chews might not be as effective as a proper dental kit. You should try and include them alongside regular brushing in your dog’s dental care routine. But if you’re experiencing difficulties or your dog just isn’t cooperating, get in touch with your local vet to explore your options.

5) Switch to a dental-friendly diet 

A dental-friendly diet isn’t just great for your dog’s teeth, but their overall health. Here are a couple of tips to make sure your buddy’s food also adds to their dental care.

A dog sits by a plate of dry kibble

Opt for dry kibble over wet food

Kibble has a crunchy texture which can help clean your dog’s teeth as they chew. Over time, this helps reduce plaque buildup.

Go for foods containing enzymes and antioxidants

These can help control tartar buildup and generally support oral health.

Avoid foods high in sugars, additives, and fillers

These can worsen dental problems and are usually nutritionally poor.

Add dental powder to your dog’s meals

When you sprinkle dental powder in your dog’s food, it can help the good bacteria multiply in your dog’s mouth while killing the plaque-building bacteria. Besides, it can also help freshen your dog’s breath and prevent tartar buildup.

Try a dental oral solution

You can add a dental oral solution to your dog’s water bowl. These additives are tasteless and can also help combat plaque buildup.

6) Schedule regular checkups (and dental cleanings) with your vet

If you’ve found yourself stuck at a pet store for way too long, wondering what to  get your dog, bring up your concerns with your local vet. They can help you make the best choice tailored to your dog’s preferences and needs. Plus, besides helping you get more clarity on your dog’s dental needs, your vet can do a thorough checkup of your dog’s teeth to identify any issues early on. They can also help you find alternative dental products if your dog doesn’t respond well to the ones you’ve picked.

A vet checks a dog's front teeth

Your vet can also refer you to a professional dental cleaning service for dogs as well. So you can get tips from the pros on how to best care for your dog’s teeth. Because just like us humans, dogs also need a periodic and thorough teeth cleanup, which you’ll find done best by a professional service.

7) Keep track of your dogs’ sleep & activity levels

One of the simplest ways to stay on top of your buddy’s health is to observe a change in their regular behaviors. A dog suffering from dental pain might not be as enthusiastic around mealtimes – or might sleep less restfully than before. But rather than relying on memory, you’re better off actively tracking their sleep and activity levels. Tractive’s Wellness Monitoring features can help you pick up dips and spikes in your dog’s sleep patterns or activity levels – and help you take action right away.

A dog sleeping on a bed with the Tractive Wellness Monitoring sleep tracking feature in the foreground

Because you should never treat your dog’s health as a second priority. With their health data at hand, you can have a more productive conversation with your vet – and ensure your buddy’s wellbeing for good.

Get Tractive GPS

Stay consistent with your dog’s dental care – and ensure their wellbeing for the long term

Just like with any routine, consistency is key. If you take the time to develop good oral hygiene habits early on, it can make a huge difference in your dog’s dental health. Besides this, we’d also recommend making dental care a positive experience for you – offer them cuddles, praise, and tons of ear scratchies after each brushing session to reinforce the idea that it’s a good habit. Actively monitor their sleep and activity levels to catch on to a change in their behaviors earlyand get them to a vet immediately, if necessary.

Because at the end of the day, your dog’s smile says a lot about their overall wellbeing. And incorporating proper dental hygiene into their routine is an investment in their long-term health and happiness. A little effort in maintaining your dog’s dental health today can mean a lifetime of smiles and wagging tails tomorrow.

Want to see how your dog’s dental care might look like in practice? Check out these 6 ways to keep your pet’s teeth healthy: