How to Remove Dog Dental Plaque: VET-Approved Advice

How to remove dog dental plaque is a question that weighs heavily on the mind of every dog owner at some point.

Read on to find out what plaque is, what makes it different from tartar, and what you can do to help your dog have strong, healthy teeth!

How to Remove Dog Dental Plaque Quickly?

You can quickly remove dog plaque by brushing all surfaces of your dog’s teeth with a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste. Remove plaque from your dog’s teeth frequently to keep it from hardening into tartar.

Read our related article, How Much Human Toothpaste is Bad for Dogs? Learn the affects of using your toothpaste on your dog, if it’s safe, and what to do if your dog ingests it.

What is Dog Plaque?

Dog plaque is a build-up of bacteria that can form on your pet’s teeth, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

Plaque is a buildup of bacteria that forms after eating foods that contain sugar and carbohydrates.

The bacteria that feed on these carbohydrates produce acid that weakens and eats into the tooth enamel causing cavities and decay.

If left untreated, plaque will harden into tartar, which requires dental scraping by a veterinarian to get rid of it.

What’s the Difference Between Dog Plaque and Tartar?

How To Remove Dog Dental Plaque 
The best way to remove plaque is to brush your dog’s teeth daily with a dog toothbrush and dog-safe toothpaste.

Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on your dog’s teeth. It is clear and sticky, though it gives teeth a “fuzzy” feel between brushing. Plaque is relatively quick and easy to get rid of.

Tartar is plaque that has hardened onto your dog’s teeth with time. Tartar can only be removed by a veterinarian. Tartar has a yellow or even brownish appearance.

Dog plaque and tartar form on the surface of the teeth and if not properly cleaned will lead to periodontal disease, tooth pain, and eventually tooth loss.

Why Do I Need to Worry about Tartar on My Dog’s Teeth?

Tartar is more than just a cosmetic problem. It can lead to gum disease, periodontitis, which is an infection of the gums. Gum disease can cause pain, tooth loss, and eventually organ damage.

The best way to ensure many healthy years with your dog is to keep his teeth clean!

Can I Treat Dog Tartar at Home?

Unfortunately, tartar must be scraped off of all tooth surfaces, a procedure that can not be done at home.

When you take your dog for professional teeth cleaning, the vet will sedate him and thoroughly clean all of the tartar from your dog’s teeth.

How Can I Prevent Dog Plaque?

Studies have shown that dogs can develop dental challenges as early as three years old. The best way to prevent plaque is to brush your dog’s teeth at least once daily.

We recommend brushing your puppy’s teeth from the beginning to make it a routine your dog is used to. Regular brushing is the key to avoiding plaque buildup on your dog’s teeth. 

Even if your dog hates having his teeth brushed, we recommend tackling the project once per week, at least. Simply start slowly, with a finger brush, and get your dog used to having his teeth brushed.

How Do I Remove Dog Dental Plaque at Home?

dog with clean, healthy teeth
Remove plaque from your dog’s teeth to keep his mouth healthy and breath fresh.

The best way to remove plaque is to brush your dog’s teeth weekly or daily with a canine toothbrush and toothpaste. You can also use special dental wipes or gels, but a brush will remove the most plaque.

Is Removing Dog Plaque Painful?

No, removing dog plaque is not usually painful unless the dog has some gum disease and inflammation.

However, if your dog has a lot of plaque build-up, your veterinarian or groomer may need to use a scaling tool to remove it. This can be a little uncomfortable for your pet, but it will not be painful.

However, once the plaque hardens into tartar it must be scraped off, a procedure which can be painful so it is done at a vet’s office under anesthesia.

How Do I Prevent Dog Plaque at Home?

There are a few things you can do at home to help remove and prevent plaque from building up on your dog’s teeth.

  • Look for a dog toothpaste that contains enzymes or other plaque-fighting ingredients. Never use human toothpaste on your dog.
  • Brushing two to three times per week can help remove plaque before it has a chance to harden into tartar.
  • Give your dog toys and chews designed to clean teeth can help remove plaque from their teeth. Chewing on toys is also a form of gum exercise.
  • Feed your dog a diet that is low in sugar and starch to help reduce plaque build-up. Small dogs are susceptible to tartar build-up, so feeding your dog a breed-specific kibble formula can help with oral health.
  • Use dental wipes or pads designed to remove plaque from your dog’s teeth in-between brushing.
  • Use a water additive or oral rinse that helps reduce plaque build-up. Make sure to use only a special mouthwash or toothpaste that is designed for dogs.

Whichever method you choose, make sure to do it regularly, at least once a week. We love to use dental chews for our dogs daily to help keep teeth shiny and clean.

How Important Is Oral Hygiene in Dogs?

Poor oral hygiene can lead to several problems in dogs, such as serious gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and bad breath.

Additionally, plaque and tartar can build up on your dog’s teeth, leading to further complications including preventable organ diseases.

Therefore, it is important to brush your dog’s teeth regularly and visit the veterinarian for professional cleanings as needed.

What Damage Does Plaque Do In Dogs?

dog plaque caues gum disease
Tooth plaque causes gum disease, inflammation, pain, tooth loss, and even jawbone decay.

The bacteria in plaque can gradually cause gum disease, bad breath, and tooth decay. Over time, plaque can also lead to the loss of teeth and even heart problems.

Bad breath is not only unpleasant for you, but it can also be a sign that your dog is sick.

Especially bad dog breath warrants a vet checkup to make sure that your dog is not already suffering from periodontal disease.

It is important to take your dog to the vet for a professional cleaning every six months to 1 year. This is often covered by pet insurance and can save you a lot of money in the long run. 

Your dog’s mouth is just as important to care for as your own. With diligent cleaning at home, you can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, so vet cleanings will be easier and less expensive too.

Read our related article, How Much Does a Dog Dental Exam Cost? Learn what it costs to take care of your dog’s teeth — and the cost you may pay if you don’t.

Final Thoughts

We know that brushing a dog’s teeth can be really difficult and time-consuming, but it’s worth learning how to remove dog dental plaque.

We recommend that you start to train your dog to accept tooth brushing as soon as possible. Start small, getting your dog used to having your finger or the toothbrush in his mouth.

With time, patience, rewards, and cuddles, your dog will learn to enjoy toothbrushing, and his teeth will be whiter, gums healthier, and breath fresher than ever before!

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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