Every veterinarian will advise you to regularly brush your dog’s teeth and while keeping the teeth clean is extremely important, some sources mention that only 1-5% of pet owners brush their dog’s teeth regularly.
And I am not one of them.
That’s right, if you’re searching for an alternative to brushing your dog’s teeth, you’re at the right address.
Disclaimer: Daily teeth care is vital and not all of the following alternatives necessarily work for your dog since factors like diet, genetics, breed, etc. play a big role. Daily teeth brushing may be the most effective way of keeping your dog’s teeth and gums clean.
How are teeth usually cleaned? You can go with a commercial toothpaste (not an option for me due to all the unhealthy ingredients) or you go the natural route without brushing.
Whatever you do, if you don’t do it right or do nothing at all, your dog might require professional teeth cleaning, alternatively an anesthesia-free cleaning or you do it yourself at home – I’ll dive deeper into these risks below.
VCA Hospitals estimate that 2/3 of dogs over the age of 3 have some degree of periodontal disease.
Don’t let your dog be one of them.
How To Clean Dog Teeth Without Brushing
To keep your dog’s teeth clean, you can use coconut oil, raw bones, dental chews, dental toys, and teeth cleaning supplements like water additives or powder.
Not all of these solutions work equally well for every dog.
My personal routine looks like this:
- Brushing dog teeth with coconut oil to soften plaque right before care
- Raw bones 2x per week
- Dental chews a couple of times per week
- Dental toys for play every day
- Occasional teeth cleaning supplements
I want to be upfront: All of these methods are intended to keep your dog’s teeth clean without brushing, but they will not reverse any existing periodontal disease.
Who is natural teeth cleaning for?
These methods are for dog owners that just don’t want to use commercial products due to their ingredients and/or can’t manage to clean the teeth of their canine due to them being very defensive about their oral space (often includes rescues or just overly sensitive dogs).
Who is professional teeth cleaning for?
If your dog’s tartar build-up is just too advanced, you might want to think about professional teeth cleaning. However, I’ll also present anesthesia-free options for worried owners and older furry companions.
Either way, you’ve probably tried the dog toothbrush and had no success, so let’s check out some alternatives to traditional dog teeth cleaning!
Brushing Dog Teeth With Coconut Oil
I’m a long-time big fan of coconut oil for humans and dogs. This natural oil has so many qualities that are also very effective in fighting gum diseases and bacteria.
It’s also extremely yummy! The coconut oil I am using for my dog is this organic virgin coconut oil.
Incorporating coconut oil into your daily schedule will not only benefit your dog’s teeth but also:
- Immune system
- Digestive system
It softens the tooth tartar after every use and makes it possible to just scrape the plague right off.
My Rottweiler Amalia gets four teaspoons of coconut oil in her breakfast every day to supplement her raw diet.
After that, I like to rub a bit of coconut oil onto her teeth and gums so they can really soak in all the benefits.
The recommended daily dose of coconut oil to brush dog teeth is 1 teaspoon per 15-30 pounds, your perfect dosage may vary.
Coconut oil is perfect when you use it in addition to raw meaty bones or dental toys to make sure the plaque that is softened actually gets scraped off.
Raw Bones, Dental Chews & Toys
My dog’s on a raw diet which makes for a great variety and lets her chew on various textures while maximizing dietary health benefits.
Using raw meaty bones and dental toys is perfect after your dog’s plaque is softened with the mentioned supplements below or coconut oil.
That’s not all though.
Many dog owners have reported to only use raw bones for their dog teeth cleaning and have zero tartar build-up, gum diseases, or tooth loss in the first place without using additional methods.
Personally, I haven’t been feeding bones as much as I should’ve in the beginning and the raw diet alone just didn’t cut it if wasn’t softening the plaque with something first.
However, the mechanical scraping that is achieved through grinding and gnawing on these bones surely helps. Depending on your dog’s size and possible allergies, you may have to check out several raw bones like chicken drumsticks, necks, or lamb ribs.
Supervise your dog while they gnaw on the bones to sure your dog doesn’t choke.
Bully Sticks are another alternative to raw meaty bones but don’t have the other health benefits and should be used in addition to supplements that soften your dog’s tartar.
Dental toys are a great way to keep your dog’s teeth clean while keeping them busy and entertained.
Through their texture, dental toys can scrape off your dog’s tartar but are never a totally safe way of removing existing tartar build-up.
There are a variety of stationary dog toothbrushes where customers complain that dogs just lick the stuff off or they completely destroy it (should’ve checked this guide for indestructible chew toys).
Teeth Cleaning Supplements
Many supplements to clean a dog’s teeth make the tartar soft enough for you to scrape it off or use raw bones and dental toys.
The Proden PlaqueOff has been reported to work wonderfully for many dog owners with 4,000+ positive reviews.
It’s very easy to use and your pet won’t feel a thing.
Another option that is more of a preventative measure, as well as a way to keep your dog’s breath fresh, is water additives.
Personally, I’m trying to steer clear of any unnatural products with chemicals added that might upset the digestive tract, cause skin issues or other negative effects.
Natural Teeth Cleaning For Dogs – Routine
After breakfast, you can rub a teaspoon of coconut oil onto your dog’s teeth and let it sit for a few minutes.
You then go ahead and either give your pooch a soaked chew toy or dental chews so she can get rid of all the plague herself while eating something yummy.
The breakfast can be a raw diet or whatever you’re feeding at the moment. In any case, make sure to incorporate raw meaty bones.
Many people swear by raw bones to clean their dog’s teeth and that’s what keeps them white in the wild. However, wolves in the wild don’t live as long as dogs meaning your canine needs his teeth much longer, so there’s there’s that.
Dogs rarely get any cavities because their teeth are differently formed and they don’t eat any sugar (or shouldn’t eat any sugar).
A healthy diet makes a great difference in your dog’s well being and I am all for it.
During the day, you can opt for a water additive to keep the breath fresh but this might not be necessary. If you go for it, check the label prior to buying.
Depending on the severity of your dog’s teeth issues, you should see a vet and explore a professional dental cleaning.
Anesthesia-free Dog Teeth Cleaning
The American Veterinary Medical Association advises against anesthesia-free dog teeth cleaning, but there might still be a place for this procedure.
Will the teeth be completely deep-cleaned besides just being white? Most likely not.
The downsides of anesthesia-free teeth cleaning include the inability to remove tartar above the gum line as well as inner surfaces of the teeth and the risk of injury if your dog makes sudden moves.
If periodontal disease is present and advanced or teeth need to be extracted, anesthesia-free cleaning isn’t on the table at all.
All the risks of anesthesia-free dog teeth cleaning in short:
- Inability to remove tartar above gum line
- Inability to properly clean inner teeth surfaces
- Only addresses cosmetic teeth issues
- Scratches on tooth enamel aren’t polished and can cause issues if manual scaling is performed
- Oral bacteria can be released into bloodstream
- Pain or psychological trauma
- Vets might take less time for anesthesia-free cleanings to spare the dog the horror of sitting through an hour-long session
- No possibility to perform x-ray
- False sense of security due to white teeth
- Suitable for old dogs unable to go under or even-tempered dogs with no signs of gum disease and mild tartar buildup
So when does teeth cleaning without anaesthesia make sense for dogs?
It makes sense if you’ve exhausted all other options and your dog is too old or fragile for anesthesia but you still need to get his teeth cleaned in some way.
Exhausting all options include doing blood work, heart tests and so on for your dog to make sure he’s really not suitable for anesthesia and even then, benefits have to be weighed against possible issues that may arise from teeth issues.
Another group of dog owners it might be suitable for: Your dog has a healthy diet coupled with bones or dental toys, chews, water additives or whatnot and overall dental health is good, and you only have cosmetic tooth problems like mild plaque buildup which can often be solved if you have a calm dog and a skilled vet/dentist.
While a thorough examination can get you a pretty good idea of your dog’s dental state, it’s not a certainty as no x-ray will be performed, gum lines won’t be probed, and so on.
Furthermore, problems below the gumline still need to be fixed in another way. And that’s where most oral diseases happen.
It could be the reason why your pet’s underlying teeth issues won’t be resolved but this way of teeth cleaning doesn’t necessarily fuel rotten teeth (unless bacteria are released into the bloodstream).
However, periodontal diseases might go unnoticed due to the false sense of security.
How Much Does It Cost To Have Your Dog’s Teeth Cleaned Professionally?
A professional cleaning usually costs $300-$700 for standard procedures (inhalation/IV anesthesia, tartar removal, polish, fluoride, mouth rinse).
If you opt for manual scraping only, the cost can go down significantly as it’s on par with the anesthesia-free cleaning in that case which might cost $100-$200.
More difficult procedures that require teeth removal, root canal issues, or other complications can easily cost you $500-$1,500 right off the bat in more expensive locations.
Some people recommend having your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned every 6-12 months although I personally try to avoid that. No matter how safe anesthesias are preached to be, it’s still a risk besides the absolute sure negative side effects.
How Many Dogs Die During Dental Cleanings?
According to a study across 117 veterinary practices and 98,036 dogs, the risk of dying from anesthesia was 1.33% for sick dogs and 0.17% for healthy dogs in a window of 48 hours.
A French study from 2008-2010 cited 1.35% as death rate across 3546 dogs.
And anesthesia is pretty much the biggest risk of professional dental cleanings. While the rate of incidence is hovering around “only” 1% or even 0.1%, it’s still a real risk.
How can you minimise the risk? Proper monitoring by at least one second vet tech as well as sophisticated tools, safe anesthesia, blood work and possibly more exams prior to going under.
What To Expect After Dog Teeth Cleaning
Apart from the potential anaesthesia risks and your dog possibly feeling under weather for a couple of days, your dog should now have a healthy oral region.
Not all dogs will have sparkling white teeth, but any gum infections should be cleared (or will clear in a couple of days) really problematic teeth should be extracted now and all the tartar is removed.
However, you should now strive to keep your dog’s teeth clean naturally to avoid another dental cleaning since the advised routine of a professional cleaning once per year isn’t ideal if it can be avoided.
What Happens If You Don’t Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Completely ignoring and neglecting your dog’s dental health will lead to some serious problems eventually.
I know that they are many people claiming that they have never cared for their dog’s dental health and they still reached 16 years
Ignoring your dog’s teeth hygiene may lead to bad breath, gum infections, tooth removal, generalized infection by tartar bacteria, and going on from there.
The first symptom of not brushing your dog’s teeth will probably be an unbearable breath caused by plaque build-up.
The number of bacteria may lead to periodontal disease causing infections, swollen gums,
Recommended Reading: Dog jowls and how to keep them clean
It’s not that easy to recognize hurting teeth in a dog but he may show it through constantly rubbing his mouth or refusing to eat.
The quicker teeth decay may eventually lead to tooth loss, leaving your dog with a lot of pain and unnecessary problems that will require veterinary attention.
All health-related problems in dogs can become expensive really quickly and most of them can be easily prevented.
If you have doubts and want to be on the safe side, then brush or care for your dog’s teeth daily or at least three times a week.
Imagine what would happen to your mouth if you wouldn’t brush your teeth twice a day.
Is It Safe to Brush Your Dogs Teeth with Baking Soda?
Definitely a big NO. Many sites suggest using baking soda to clean your dog’s teeth but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone since there’s no scientific evidence supporting its efficacy.
First, baking soda tastes horrible. It will make your dog hate the daily brushing.
Second, it’s not safe for your dog to swallow. Baking soda contains alkaline which upsets the digestive system. It can release gasses leading to muscle spasms and heart failure.
Rather stick to dental sprays, gels, water additives and the coconut oil for teeth cleaning.
Using baking soda in chew toys in moderate amounts hasn’t been reported to lead to any problems as far as I know, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as sole option to achieve clean canine teeth.
Study Reveals Many Owners Don’t Brush Their Dog’s Teeth
Interesting fact: Nearly half of the 60,000 respondents in a Swedish study stated that they never brush their dog’s teeth.
The study also revealed that while roughly 27% of the non-brushing respondents would “consider” brushing their dog’s teeth daily and 36% would “maybe consider it”, less than 4% are actually brushing their dog’s teeth daily.
“Almost 9 out of 10 veterinarians and veterinary nurses stated that they often or always recommend tooth brushing” while only 4 out of 10 dog owners have heard about this from their vet, the rest was informed through the internet or journals.
Many factors play into your dog’s dental health.
Genetics and the type of breed also influence dental health.
A raw diet plays a major role in preventing tartar buildup. Raw meat doesn’t stick to the teeth and contains lots of natural enzymes that help in keeping the mouth clean.
Chewing is really important and should be encouraged every day. My dog likes to chew on raw bones which provide the best possible way of keeping her teeth clean.
Chew toys and dental chews are also an alternative.
Supplementing with water additives or dental sprays will make a huge difference in his oral hygiene.
Coconut oil can be used for brushing or added to your dog’s meals. It softens the tartar and keeps your dog healthy and happy.
Small and toy breeds have the most teeth problems and all the tips may not cut it for them.
Speak to your vet about deep cleanings and what their dental routine should look like. Every dog is different and not all approaches work for everyone.
What are your experiences with tooth brushing? Does your dog have great oral health? Let me know in the comments!