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7 Reasons to care about your dog's dental health

I've been a pet lover my entire life, but made my passion a profession in 2006. I closely follow pet lifestyle trends, industry news and assist companies with product development.

Don't just turn up your nose at your dog's bad breath. Consider the significant risks associated with poor dental health in our canines.

happy dog

Photo credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and it's a great reminder that we should all truly care about our dogs' dental health care. Why, you ask?

It adds years to their life

Veterinary studies have proven that poor dental health and periodontal disease can lead to a variety of other painful and harmful diseases.

It helps prevent bad breath

One of the most common complaints from dog owners is that their pet's breath stinks, but that's easy to fix by brushing your pet's teeth once or preferably twice per day!

It helps you avoid expensive bills

Preventive dental care is always less expensive than professional cleanings and oral surgery.

It's the responsible thing to do

It's so important to be proactive about your pets' health, and doing so will improve the overall quality of their life.

It makes them happy

Spending a few extra minutes caring for your dog will strengthen the amazing bond you two already share!

They'll look pretty

Nothing is cuter than an adorable pooch with pearly whites!

It's easy!

Brushing your dog's teeth takes less than 10 minutes out of your day! While our dogs may need time to get used to having their teeth brushed if they've never had it done before, just remember that the long-term benefits significantly outweigh any potential short-term discomfort. It doesn't hurt them. It's just a new sensation that requires some getting used to (just like a toddler needs to get used to brushing his or her teeth).

A great at-home doggie toothbrush is made by Zututh. Their Z-shaped brush allows dog owners to reach the upper back molars more easily and more effectively than with a straight brush. The upper-back molar area is known to be the most difficult-to-reach area and is thus prone to plaque and tartar buildup. The company offers two styles: the classic Zututh Manual and the soft, electric Zututh Breeze (Zututh.com, $4 and $8, respectively).

As for toothpaste, don't just use your own! Arm & Hammer Advanced Care Fresh Breath & Whitening Toothpaste for Dogs promotes a clean, healthy mouth and is minty-delicious (your pup will be grateful for the great taste), not to mention completely safe and nontoxic to your pup (Petsmart, $9).

If it's your first time brushing Fido's teeth at home, here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Be patient. It should be a bonding experience for you and your pets, and we know it might take time for your pups to get used to having a new object in their mouth. Just like kids, they'll get the hang of it! Just do it with lots of love and pets to help them stay calm.
  • First, let your dogs get used to the toothbrush and toothpaste. Let your dogs sniff the toothbrush and toothpaste and get as comfortable with them as possible.
  • Slowly lift your dogs' lips, teeth and gums with your finger. Your dogs are used to your touch, and your touch will eventually help them get used to a toothbrush.
  • Brush along the gumline and work quickly. You don't need to scrub, and it's most important to focus on the front side of the teeth (the side touching the cheek). Work up to doing 30 seconds of brushing on each side of the mouth at least every other day.

If you notice any problems, like red or bleeding gums or bad breath, call your veterinarian. The sooner a problem can be detected, the easier it will be to treat.

Happy brushing!

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