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Are you using the right dog toothbrush? – You may be surprised

If your dog has less love for her toothbrush than her rib bone, she is obviously not alone. Haha!

But if you read Dental Scaling under General Anaesthesia! Oh no! on this blog in June then perhaps you would agree with me that teeth brushing is an important routine for the dog, regardless of her, ahem, lack of fondness for her toothbrush.

In this post, I’m will go through:

  • How regularly we’re brushing Donna’s teeth
  • How I tried to help Donna like her tooth brush
  • The pet toothbrush that didn’t work for Donna
  • The pet toothbrush that worked for Donna
  • How to brush a dog’s teeth
  • And is it really true that we can’t use human toothbrushes for dogs?


Regular toothbrushing keeps dog’s teeth clean and gums healthy

I try to brush Donna’s teeth every day. Plaque starts forming on teeth 4 to 12 hours after brushing so it seems to be me that at least once a day will help remove plague more efficiently than 2-3 times a week.

When plaque is not removed, it hardens to become tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. So of course I would want to remove plague effectively now than to pay more money more frequently for dental work at the vet. More about.

It’s not Donna’s favourite routine. And I have to admit that Donna’s lack of love of her toothbrush largely stemmed from the human’s bungling tooth brushing skills.


Helping Donna get used to having a toothbrush in her mouth

I did alright at first. I helped her like her toothbrush by making it part of a fun game of fetch…

… although she did attempt to chew off the plastic handle at some point. Hmmm…

And she liked the flavour of the toothpaste I bought whether it was mint or poultry flavour.

But there was a one thing I did wrong.


I bought the wrong toothbrush for Donna

Being a dog newbie at the time, I decided to buy a dental kit that will give me both toothpaste and toothbrush. The pet shop offered a modest selection.

I chose the TropiClean dental kit based on the following:

  • word of mouth recommendation
  • two choices of toothbrushes to experiment with
  • all the products in one pack, no need to think about what brand toothpaste to buy
  • fancy toothbrush, I thought it could reach all the teeth surfaces better since it’s multi-dimensional
  • vet recommended label

Tropiclean Fresh Breath Plaque Remover Pet Oral Care Kit, Large
Tropiclean Fresh Breath Plaque Remover Pet Oral Care Kit, Large

But this kit was the wrong kit for Donna because:

  • Donna’s mouth was small and narrow and it was hard to use the finger brush in her mouth
  • The TripleFlex technology toothbrush has hard bristles. I imagine it hurt to brush with it because Donna more with this toothbrush and I could sometimes see blood on it after brushing her teeth!!

No wonder Donna hated the toothbrush!


I bought a less fancy but better toothbrush for Donna

So the next time round, I bought the less fancy looking Virbac C.E.T Home Dental Kit.

C.E.T. Duel-End Toothbrush, Fingerbrush & Enzymatic Toothpaste Oral Hygiene Kit
C.E.T. Duel-End Toothbrush, Fingerbrush & Enzymatic Toothpaste Oral Hygiene Kit

I chose the Virbac dental kit based on the following:

  • Recognisable brand carried by Donna’s Vet
  • Option for a small bristle toothbrush head to brush Donna’s small teeth in her narrow mouth
  • Softer bristles compared to the TropiClean brush
  • Enzymatic toothpaste – antibacterial so it inhibits the formation of plague

Virbac CET versus TropiClean toothbrush

The switch in toothbrushes was a success!

Donna is now less resistant to brushing her teeth compared to previously. And while she still doesn’t love her toothbrush that much, at least she didn’t hate it as much as before!

The best thing?

No more bleeding gums when I brush her teeth!

Now that we’ve settled on the toothbrush, there’s still the matter of how exactly do you brush the dog’s teeth?


How do you brush your dog’s teeth?

I admit, I am the thorough and fastidious sort.

As a child in primary school, I used to follow exactly what the school dentist taught us as we squatted along the drain to brush our teeth together – you brush from your gum outwards with exactly ten strokes each and slowly proceed from one end of your set of teeth to the other end. And you repeat that with the teeth facing the inside of your cheeks and also the side of your teeth in your mouth cavity, and of course both top and bottom sets of teeth, etc, etc, etc.

I didn’t subject Donna to this of course, but I did try to be thorough for her good dental health. *Oops!*

But according to this video, dog teeth brushing appears to be a lot easier than what I was trying to do with Donna. So, go see if you would like to have a reference. If you have trouble playing the video, you can also check out the slideshow here.

While the video says that the finger toothbrush works just as well as the bristle toothbrush, be aware of the strength you use when brushing your dog’s teeth. Toa Payoh Vets has this case study of a Miniature Schnauzer with two loose front teeth and exposed roots. Brushing too vigorously can cause the dogs to experience receding gums, which is not good for them.

And if you’re extremely interested (haha!), here’s the recommended brushing technique, as used in the VOHC trials, available here – VOHC Brushing Protocol.


So they say you can’t use a human toothbrush for the dog’s teeth… is that true?

Every webpage I read when I researched dog teeth brushing tells me the dog needs to have a specialised dog toothbrush.

But why?

Is it the way the brush head is angled to enable the human to brush a pet’s teeth more easily?

dog versus human toothbrush

It certainly didn’t seem like a more complex toothbrush design helped Donna, compared to the simpler toothbrush we bought later on…

tropiclean triple toothbrush

Imagine my surprise when I read the following on the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) webpage for Products Awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance because they met “VOHC’s standards for effectiveness in retarding plaque and tartar when used as directed”.

ADA-compliant soft-bristle, flat head toothbrush

The only toothbrush that occurs in the all the dental products listed the accepted products list is “a tooth brush compliant with the American Dental Association standard ISO 20126:2005“.

And a ‘child-sized brush with soft bristles and a flat profile head was used in dogs in a trial conducted according to VOHC protocols…. The ADA standard ensures that the bristles have rounded tips to avoid damaging the gums‘.

Is it just me or does it seem like we’re better off using child tooth brushes compliant to the ISO standard for our dogs???

Note: VOHC is not a regulatory agency. Submission of results of clinical trials to VOHC on behalf of a product is voluntary. More here.

That’s certainly something that confused me. And I guess I won’t be so quick to express doubt when someone tells me they are using child toothbrushes on their dog next time round. ; )

tongue out tuesday

Do you brush your dog’s teeth?
What sort of toothbrush and toothpaste do you like to use?

Some products on Amazon with VOHC Seal of Acceptance

Milk-Bone Brushing Chews Daily Dental Treats – Small/Medium Value Pack, 22 Ounce – 28 Bones

Greenies Dental Chews for Dogs, Regular, Pack of 27


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Find Donna


The human keeps waking me up in the middle of the night!!!


  1. Now I’m having second thoughts on whether Cookie’s toothbrush is the correct one, and we just bought it!

  2. I brush Torrey’s teeth, and she is super good about it. She detests mint paste however, so we have peanut flavor. Roxy has a tiny mouth, so she gets dental chews instead.

    • The CET veggie chews have the VOHC seal. Unfortunately Donna doesn’t like the brand :P I;m glad Donna is her size… I think I may accidentally strangle a small dog while trying to brush his teeth :P I accidentally snapped a teaspoon into two the other day washing it…. *bleah*

  3. Great post! :D we are using baby toothbrush for cotton now cause we started off with the finger brush, but lol my finger too fat for her tiny mouth hahaha. Then we got the petosan toothpaste and toothbrush set which didn’t go well with Cotton at all. The petosan toothbrush has similar layout as the tropiclean one, and was too difficult to get to the back of her teeth with that. She loves the toothpaste (CET) but not the toothbrushing hahah

    • The finger brush is too fat and awkward for Donna too, so I can imagine it will be impossible to use on Cotton!! The C.E.T. toothpaste is yum… says Donna. :P

  4. Child toothbrush! I find it easier to use than the one you bought wrong too. And it’s actually quite difficult to find the one Donna is using now…. They changed all the products on the shelves to the 3sided brushes. =(

    • If they are no longer found than Donna will started to be on child toothbrush too because that three sided one just doesn’t work for us!

  5. When my human read the title of the post, there was screaming and a quick trip to the bathroom. I thought I heard “There’s no such thing as the right dog brush” and a little later, “thank God it’s a human toothbrush”. Jeez, read the entire post, not just the title.

  6. Whahahahahahah! I just love the video Mrs. P. I am sure Donna will train you correctly one of these days! :lol:
    The last photo is just adorable! Donna clearly shows what she thinks of the tootbrushes. LOL! They should make tootbrushes that looks and tastes like that rib bone. :D

    I always used to buy the doggie toothpaste that tastes like meat and Simba loved that. I also bought toothbrushes for children, put the toothpaste on and let him chew it and while he did that, I would move the toothbrush around on his teeth. Simba doesn’t like anyone touching his mouth, so that was the only way it worked.

    Then we discovered he loves empty toilet roll holders and he would chew on it for hours and we made a game out of it as well. After he brushed this teeth, he would get an empty toilet roll holder. He will be 16 in December and not a single bad tooth in his mouth. Even the vets here are surprised when they see that. Guess someone did something right. :lol:

    Great post and photo’s Mrs. P. Thanks for posing Donna and for being such a beauty! You are so photogenic! :D
    ♥ Big Hugs ♥ to both of you. xxx

  7. Very informative post! Wonderful photos, too!

  8. Excellent information although I admit that we don’t brush. :)

  9. Susan

    VOHC recommends either Petsmile gel toothpaste or Dog Essential Healthy Mouth gel for the toothpastes. I’m about to purchase the Petsmile brand on Amazon because the Dog Essential looks to be really over the top expensive.

  10. The same thing actually happened to me! I got a fancy toothbrush and brushing kit from the vet and my cocker spaniel didn’t like it. So I did some research and I found this article so I went and picked up a more reasonable, less intrusive toothbrush and over the past few weeks I’ve been able to get lola my spaniel to really enjoy having her teeth brushed. So happy it worked!

  11. I also use a baby toothbrush. My dog enjoys his teeth brushing because he loves the taste of the toothpaste!

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