Keeping your dog’s teeth healthy and clean is an important part of pet care and this routine should begin early in life. Just as humans are advised to get professional teeth cleanings every 6 months to a year, the same is recommended for dogs. A dog should be seen in between dental cleanings for bad breath, bleeding gums, blood on chews or if there is difficulty eating.

If you’re not sure how to establish a dental care routine for your dog, here are 7 easy and effective teeth cleaning tips to get you started:

1. Seek professional dental care – Age 2 is the recommended time to start a dental care routine for your fur friend. Starting at a young age will get your dog accustomed to the process early-on. Most veterinarian offices offer dental care services and a typical cleaning only costs a couple hundred dollars and is an essential step to caring for your pet.

2. Schedule one professional cleaning each calendar year. As with humans, dogs should get professional dental care at least once per year. The appointment will take about 45 minutes to an hour and your pup will be sedated in order to receive a thorough cleaning. After the dental appointment, most dogs can generally eat a regular diet 12 to 48 hours after a cleaning. You can soften your dog’s food for up to a few days post-appointment to help with chewing if their teeth appears sensitive.

3. Brush 2-3 times a week.  Dental maintenance is required and you should aim to brush your dog’s teeth 2 to 3 times a week. If your dog won’t let you brush his or her teeth, you can try using dog dental sprays or washes, although the may not be as effective as brushing. Smaller dogs such as Dachshunds, Yorkies and Chihuahuas are more prone to periodontal disease due to teeth crowding in the mouth since more plaque retention leads to periodontal disease.

4. Brush for 30-60 seconds each time. A good rule of thumb is to brush your dog’s teeth for 30 to 60 seconds each time. This allows for a thorough brushing of all teeth. You can set a timer if needed to help keep track of time spent while brushing.

5. Use circular motions. This technique is effective in getting all areas of the tooth’s surface clean and provides a gentle scrubbing motion against the gums that won’t harm the dog’s mouth.

6. Focus on the inside of the teeth. Dog’s teeth build up tartar and plaque. The inside of the teeth are susceptible to this build-up so make sure to brush those areas well. You can skip brushing your dog’s tongue since it’s sensitive and not necessary to brush

7. Use the right tools. Use a dog’s toothbrush, children’s toothbrush or finger toothbrush and always use a dog-friendly toothpaste (never use human toothpaste or baking soda). Dental treats and flexible chew toys can help keep your dog’s teeth naturally cleaner in between brushing.

Dental care is an area that should not be ignored when it comes to maintaining a pet’s health. Fortunately, in the last decade, doggy dentistry has grown significantly and dog owners recognize the importance of keeping their pets healthy. Following these 7 simple dental care tips will help keep your dog healthy from the inside out.