Teef, teefies, TEEF!!!!! Dental hygiene is extremely important in canine care and as is so often the case with dogs, in training and in health, prevention is better than cure. Do you clean your dogs teeth? It's advisable to start your puppy on a regular dental care routine from the very beginning, this will give you a good amount of time to habituate your little one to the equipment, and the handling involved. Your little bundle of fluff will have the deciduous (baby) teeth until around 4 ish months old, so get some treats, get the equipment, and get practicing!
Harvey et al. (2015) performed a trial relating to the effect of frequency of brushing teeth on plaque and calculus (tartar) accumulation, and gingitivis in dogs. This research was randomised, controlled and blinded, and was looking at 4 different brushing frequencies; daily, every other day, weekly and ever other week, with one control group with NO brushing. Unsurprisingly, brushing more frequently had greater effectiveness in delaying accumulation of plaque and calculus, and reducing the severity of pre-existing gingivitis. The results overall, shock horror, showed daily tooth brushing was the most beneficial. I must say though, personally speaking, I feel anything is better than nothing!
There are various chews, bones and all manner of crunchy yummies you can provide for your dog to aid in dental hygiene and teeth cleaning. The results of these may well be beneficial however do be mindful of what Dr Peralta (oral surgeon from Cornell University) has stated, that no chew toy can ever manage pernicious plaque build up under the gum line, with a bristly toothbrush possibly being the only way. These teeth, goodness, complicated things aren't they?!
I won't go into the whole canine anatomy of TEEFIES, if you want more info on canine teeth then of course please do get in touch, I could talk about teeth all day, their names and functions, love it! Dog teeth, not human teeth. However I will tell you briefly a few puppy hints and tips for introducing your little one to teeth cleaning.
1. Introduction - Calm, relaxed, at your pups pace. Pups by their very nature explore with their mouth and teeny tiny teef! Much to our dismay when our new favourite cushion has been chewed up because we left it out :) So, let your pup explore, investigate and use that innate and natural instinct to MOUTH!
2. Toothpaste - DOG toothpaste please, never human. You can get some yummy flavours, poultry for example, yum. Let your pup have a little lick, they'll find out how tasty and fun this whole toothbrush thing is!
3. Intro to brushing - Start gradually with the teeny tiny little incisors at the front, slowly! Use treats, use toys or play, use the release from hold as a reinforcer, anything your puppy likes. A slight brush = a very good thing for your puppy.
4. ONLY once your pup is confident with the above, start to move to other teeth. Now I know you've all been practicing your handling techniques by this point, so your puppy will be very familiar with the word 'teeth' and what it means, therefore you will find that lifting the lip to have a look at the back teeth won't be a problem :)
5. Build duration, build your technique, continue to build confidence!
If your pup absolutely ridiculously DETESTS this, start with just your finger and not a toothbrush. Please be careful, I don't want you to lose a finger :) You can also buy some dental wipes, which again, if your puppy is absolutely adamant they hate toothbrushes, may help to build confidence. There are varying types of brushes, varying methods, don't struggle alone! I don't believe you will have trouble, but there are ways around it if you hit a brick wall.
Be brave, be bold, you can do it! Don't obsess too much just make a start, that's all that matters, introduction from early on is so beneficial long term, so get introducing! Some dogs may never LOVE it, it is fairly invasive after all, but most will happily and confidently accept it.
This is just the very basics, there really are so many ways to encourage a calm and relaxed emotional response to this kind of handling and procedure, if you're struggling, get in touch :)