Yes, But Which Toothbrush?

Adding toothbrushing to your dog’s daily grooming.


If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, why not improve your dog’s health by adding a daily dental hygiene regimen to your list? Consider the accumulation of plaque that develops on your pet’s teeth and eventually hardens under her gum line, bringing bacteria, discomfort, and eventual destabilization of the teeth that can largely be avoided with regular toothbrushing. It makes the decision a no-brainer.

Many dogs are fine with the toothbrushing process from the get-go. They enjoy the beef, poultry, and other enticing flavors of canine toothpaste, and they don’t mind the extra attention from you, either. But some respond with anything from reluctance to outright distress at any attempt to get near their mouths.

If your dog is one of the uncooperative ones, start by simply placing a dab of an enzymatic toothpaste created just for dogs on the toothbrush you will be using nightly. Offering up the toothpaste as a treat without trying any actual brushing might very well adjust her to the idea gradually enough to get her to eventually comply. And it won’t harm your pet because unlike toothpaste for people, it doesn’t contain fluoride or xylitol, which are toxic to dogs.

Making sure the brush you choose is the right one for your particular dog is key. The bristles should be rounded and soft or extra-soft. There are other considerations as well. Here’s a rundown of what’s available so you can work to match the right brush to your dog.

Traditional canine brushes

Toothbrushes intended for dogs are often the best bet, especially those angled for better access to hard-to-reach spots. Dual-headed brushes that come with a small brush on one side and a larger brush on the other end work well, with the larger brush suited for overall brushing and the smaller one ideal for more delicate areas, such as the smaller front teeth.

One toothbrush we like is the H&H Pets Dual Headed Dog & Cat Toothbrush Set. It comes with either four or eight brushes to a pack, each with both a small and a large brush on the angled handle. Available on and for $6.99 to $8.99.

Toothbrushes for people

If you want to use a baby toothbrush, that should be fine. The soft, rounded bristles and small head will work well on your dog, and some people find the shorter handle easier to maneuver.

One human toothbrush you should not use is a device that’s battery-operated with spinning action. That can cause your dog pain because you won’t be able to ascertain where the brush is landing.

Finger brushes

A thimble-shaped toothbrush with flexible rubber bristles slipped over your finger is more easily accepted by some dogs than a toothbrush. It won’t get below the gumline, as a toothbrush does, but a skittish dog may perceive the finger covering as an extension of you and therefore accept it more readily than a foreign object, making her more trusting about the brushing process. Another plus to finger brushes is that they help you better gauge how much pressure you are applying to your dog’s teeth and gums.

Pet Republique Dog Toothbrush Series Cat and Dog Finger Toothbrush (six to a package), comes in small (for women and those with small fingers) and regular sizes to best fit the finger width of the wearer. Available on for $6.88.

I’ll Brush Them Myself, Thank You

Not all dogs make their peace with toothbrushing. For them, there are interactive “brushes” that your pet can enjoy chewing on while cleaning her teeth.

One of them is the Bristly Empawer Pets Rubber Toothbrush. This do-it-yourself alternative enables a dog to to chew on a “toy” she holds between her paws. It has meat-flavored and scented bristles that scrub teeth, even along the gumline. The tear-resistant rubber toothbrush also holds a self-dispensing toothpaste reservoir that brings the toothpaste up to the bristles while your dog gnaws. Adding toothpaste will make the brushing that much more effective.

The Bristly Empawer, which got its start on the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, is dishwasher safe. And tests show it lasts about 1 month for heavy chewers before needing to be replaced. For average dogs, the recommended replacement time is 3 months. Available on,, and in small to large sizes from $19.99 to $24.99.


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