As we discussed in our dog toothpaste post, doggie breath is the result of built-up bacteria, just as with human teeth. Unlike with human teeth, however, it’s less common to find a dog whose teeth have been brushed daily.
It’s a very good idea to get into the habit of brushing your dog’s teeth at least once a week, in addition to going for a cleaning once a year. That bacteria can lead to the obvious dental issues, but also the less obvious organ failure as it hangs around and enters the bloodstream. Brushing is just one of the five ways to improve dog teeth according to PetMD.
When first starting out, you’ll need to get your dog comfortable with the idea. Here are the steps to brushing your dog’s teeth the first time:
- Work with your dog until it is comfortable with you poking at its mouth. You can do this by regularly checking for sores or damage, rewarding with treats until they think of the experience as pleasant.
- After you’ve selected a dog-friendly toothpaste, give it to them as a treat for a few days. This will also save you the trouble if they don’t like the flavor.
- Rub the toothpaste along the gums as the brushing exercise for the first few times.
- Introduce the toothbrush by letting your dog interact with it while in your hand. Add some toothpaste they can lick off so they think of it as a treat.
- Try brushing a few of the front teeth. Go slowly; just because they’re comfortable with you and the brush by now doesn’t ensure they’ll love the sensation of the brushing itself.
- Brush the outsides of the teeth. Once you get through brushing all the outsides a few times, your dog should be well on its way to being comfortable with the process as a whole.
- Brush all surfaces of the teeth.
- Consider following up with an oral spray and water additive.
It’s true that you can use a normal, soft-bristled toothbrush for this purpose, but they make a number of dog-specific toothbrushes for the job. They take a few different forms so you can choose what works best for your pup. Dog snouts can be on the long side, so you might want one with a longer handle. Conversely, for small dogs, a human toothbrush might be too big. You may want to choose one made for dogs just to make it visually distinct from the others in your house.
The toothbrushes we’ve chosen for this list have all have one advantage or another that we’ve called out. If you have multiple dogs as I do, you’ll want a brush for each of them. Depending on their breed, muzzle type, and temperament, you might need different types or sizes, as well.
One note about country of origin: You’ll often see complaints that a toothbrush is made in China, as most of the ones on this list are. While we certainly understand the concern when it comes to foods, we find that non-edible products are generally perfectly safe and these are incredibly unlikely to result in any harm coming to your pet. When we looked into dog food and cat food, we found these concerns to be much more relevant, but it shouldn’t deter you for a toothbrush in most cases.
You’ll also want something that keeps your dog’s mouth clean between brushings. Check out our best dog dental chews here.
For those looking to start a dental regimen with their dogs, here are the top ten best dog toothbrushes.
1. Best Single-Ended Dog Toothbrush: Virbac C.E.T. Single Ended Pet Toothbrush
The first and most obvious choice, this Virbac toothbrush features a single angled end with a small head. The soft bristles make this comfortable even for sensitive dogs. Some reviewers report that the bristles wore out quickly, but being that you’re meant to use the softest bristles you can find for dogs, we suspect this is because people make the same classic mistake they make when brushing their own teeth and bear down too hard. This option is about seven inches long, making it a touch shorter than other options on this list. This option is a good place to start and would pair well with Virbac’s enzymatic toothpaste. They also make a double-ended version to compete with the next pick on our list.
2. Best Double-Ended Dog Toothbrush: TenTen Labs Dog Toothbrush Set
Double-ended brushes are convenient either for multiple pets or for getting into small areas of the mouth with greater precision. The handle on these is nearly two inches longer than the Virbac above at nine inches, which could be handy depending on the size of your dog’s mouth. The bristles on these are a bit stiffer, but if they don’t work for you, there’s a money-back guarantee. Either way, these are a great deal.
Other double-ended options include the Pupteck kit, which includes four 8.8 inch brushes for an even better value. Duke’s Pet Products offers a two-pack of brushes that are shorter still at 8.5 inches.
Price: $4.50 (55 percent off MSRP)
3. Best Large Breed Dog Toothbrush: WooBamboo Large Breed Bamboo Pet Toothbrush
If you’re as concerned about the health of the environment as you are the health of your dog, you’ll want to consider a fully biodegradable toothbrush since it’s an inherently disposable item. This particular option is made of compostable bamboo coated in a natural wax. The bristles are designed especially for pets, set in a larger head for large breeds. When it’s time to change, recycle the bristles and toss this in the compost pile. This one measures five inches, making it much shorter than some of the other options. They also make one for small breeds.
4. Best Bulk Buy Dog Toothbrush: Top Performance ProDental Dual-End Toothbrushes — 50 Pack
If you’re going to be going through a lot of these, either because you plan to brush twice a day everyday or you’ve got yourself a sled dog pack, buying in bulk can net you a significant savings. For a little over $25, you get 50 double-ended, 8.5 inch brushes, making them .50 cents each. The bristles are not quite as soft as other options, so don’t bear down too much to spare your dog’s gums and to extend the life. They also have a bulk pack of finger brushes and their own gel toothpaste.
For a slightly smaller bulk buy, the Pet Republique Cat & Dog Toothbrush Set is still relatively inexpensive and slightly higher in quality at about $1.32 per brush.
5. Best Triple-Headed Dog Toothbrush: Boshel Triple-Headed Dog Toothbrush
With most brushes, you’ll have to re-position the brush around the teeth as you go. If your dog is especially fussy, getting them to sit still while you achieve this can be a chore. These three-headed brushes allow you brush along one plane but hit all sides of the row of teeth. This can significantly cut down on brushing time and possibly increase the effectiveness of your brushing sessions. The handle is thick and ergonomic, making it easier to hold than some of the thinner ones. They do come with drawbacks, apparent in the rating compared to other options. For one thing, the head is a lot larger, so your dog might not go for it as easily. They also are usually a bit less effective than the spot-specific performance of the normal heads. That being said, this could be an excellent option for quick, in-between brushings and is worth your consideration. For smaller breeds, try the EzDog Triple Pet.
Price: $10.99 (50 percent off MSRP)
6. Best Reusable Finger Dog Toothbrush: Waggletooth Dog Toothbrush
Some folks find that the traditional toothbrush shape makes it too difficult to navigate on their dog. These finger brush help alleviate those concerns by giving you more finite control. This one is made of bite resistant thermoplastic rubber and has cleaning bristles all the way around. This way, even if your dog is trying to chew it, his or her teeth are getting clean. The brush measures about 2.5 inches long and is made in the U.S.A.
7. Best Disposable Finger Dog Toothbrush: Pet Republique Cat & Dog Finger Toothbrush
If the price of the option above gives you pause, you can also grab these less-hardy finger brushes meant to be used a few times and tossed. The bristles are focused on the pad of your finger, more like a traditional brush. These are made of food-grade PVC, which makes for soft bristles and safe brushing. A similar option from TaoTronics includes two free storage cases for increased convenience.
Price: $7.69 (52 percent off MSRP)
8. Best Dog Toothbrush with Specialized Bristles: Pet Dentist Bamboo Charcoal Dog Toothbrush
Looking an awful lot like a human toothbrush, this dog toothbrush brings unique bristles to the task of cleaning your dog’s teeth. These super-soft bristles are formed from bamboo charcoal like the activated charcoal found in air purifier filters to destroy odors at the source. These bristles have rounded ends which keep your dog’s gums safe. The brush measures about seven inches, putting it mid-pack on this list.
Price: $8.99 (31 percent off MSRP)
9. Best Electric Dog Toothbrush: Petosan SilentPower Sonic Pet Electric Toothbrush
Just as with humans, the best clean your dog’s teeth can get is with an electric toothbrush. (Incidentally, if you’re in the market for one of those, check out our best electric toothbrushes of 2017 here.) Although the shipping lead time on this is long at the time of this writing, this model utilizes a double brush head with DuPont tenet nylon bristles that moves at 20,000 strokes per minute. They make this toothbrush in Norway and replacement heads can be found here. They also make their own toothpaste to go along with it. It might take a bit longer to get your dog used to the vibration, but you could reap the benefits of a better clean when they do.
10. Best Combo Pack Dog Toothbrush: Next Level Pet Premium Triple Toothbrush Value Pack
To cover all your bases, you might want to opt for a combo pack that includes one of everything you might need. Included in this set is a double-ended brush with contoured ergonomic grip. There are two different finger brushes, one made of super soft silicone and one of bristles in a circular pattern. On the back of the package is a recipe for making your own pet toothpaste, which could potentially save you some money.
Price: $10.97 (45 percent off MSRP)
Feeding dry food in place of wet food allows for mechanical abrasion and is another strategy for keeping your dog’s teeth clean. Consider our top five best dry dog food brands here.