When and How To Start Puppy Teeth Cleaning
As a proud pet parent, you may wonder if puppy teeth cleaning is necessary. Puppies start teething at about three weeks. By the time they are six weeks old, most of a puppy’s deciduous (first set) of teeth emerge. So why bother cleaning them?
Although they start with 28 baby teeth, it’s important to get puppies used to having their teeth and mouth handled and touched. The sooner your pup gets accustomed to having their teeth and mouth cleaned, the easier it becomes.
Your puppy will visit the veterinarian a number of times in his first year of life for vaccines, checkups, and routine care. The more you can teach your puppy that mouth and teeth touching are good things, the better off you (and your vet) will be in the long run.
Here’s what you need to know about caring for and cleaning your puppy’s teeth followed by a dental care oral products giveaway.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also an Etsy and Chewy affiliate.
When Should I Start Puppy Teeth Cleaning?
Whether your puppy just came home from a breeder or you rescued your puppy from a shelter, teeth cleaning should become a regular part of their care.
Have you ever felt a puppy’s teeth? We’re talking razor-sharp, piranha-like little weapons. Start by gently touching your pup’s mouth. Use sensible caution when putting your clean fingers in a puppy’s mouth.
Most veterinary professionals recommend you start oral care training on a puppy as early as six weeks of age. I’ve always started my Cocker Spaniel puppies on a toothbrush and oral care training at about four months.
FACT: Less than 4% of pet parents brush their pet’s teeth every day. Periodontal disease addressed in earlier stages can be treated and sometimes even reversed. ~Dr. Judy Morgan~
How to Get Puppies Used to Mouth Handling
It is important to start dental and oral care training off the right way. By starting this task early, your puppy will start looking forward to the process. I tell my dogs, “let’s brush your teeth” and they get excited because a treat is in store afterward.
Here’s how to get a puppy used to oral care and mouth handling:
- Play with your puppy and tire him out a bit.
- Start by touching your puppy’s lip with a yummy treat. Feed him the treat and repeat this process a few times. Your pup may be confused, but make sure he understands touching the lip gets him a tasty reward.
- After your puppy gets used to having his lips touched, you will work on raising his lip with a treat for a few days. Do this a few times for a day or two. This is a fun game, so reward him with praise. Be sure the treats are safe and puppy-sized.
- Use some inexpensive gauze and wrap a piece around your finger. Gradually rub your pup’s gums and teeth with the dry pad. Reward and praise.
- Once your pup is used to this, apply a small amount of a high-quality enzymatic brushless gel like Zymox’s Oratene gel to the gauze. It is safe for puppies and requires no brushing. Place a tiny strip on your pup’s gums once a day, preferably before bed and after they are done eating for the day.
- You don’t have to use a toothbrush with Zymox products, but if you plan to use a product that requires brushing, you’ll introduce a baby toothbrush here. I use a combo of Zymox Oratene products and toothbrushing for my dogs. The choice is yours.
If your puppy isn’t fond of the process, go back one step and stay with it for a day or two. Never scold or yell at your puppy. You want oral care to be enjoyable for you and your pup throughout his life.
If you are reading this and have an adult dog who hates teeth brushing, consider Zymox Oratene products to help promote good oral hygiene.
Puppy Teething Basics
Puppies are born without teeth, but as stated above, most pups have teeth breaking through at about three weeks old.
Puppies have 28 teeth total, 14 on the top and 14 on the bottom. By the time your pup reaches two months old, he will likely have most of his baby teeth.
Fun fact: Puppies don’t big molars because they don’t grind their food. But they will get canines, incisors, and pre-molars.
At around 12 to 16 weeks, baby teeth start falling out. In just a few days, you’ll see adult teeth appearing. I am fortunate enough to have found many of my dogs’ baby teeth on the floor or around the house. Otherwise, puppies will generally swallow baby teeth and excrete them.
Ask any puppy parent about teething, and you’ll hear stories about holes in shoes, socks chewed up, or depending on the puppy’s size, furniture that suffered the wrath of puppy teeth.
Puppies learn their world with their mouths. They are feeling discomfort and pain in their mouths and will chew and mouth,trying to alleviate the pain.
Most puppies have their adult teeth by the time they reach six months of age. He’ll have twenty permanent teeth on the top and 22 on the bottom, for a total of 42 teeth, which is more than adult humans who have 32 total as adults.
What Are Signs My Puppy is Teething?
Adult teeth are on the way when your puppy exhibits behaviors such as:
- Extra chewing or nipping
- Pawing at their mouth or you find small bloody spots on toys and the floor/carpeting
- Appears uncomfortable eating their food
- Whining or crying from pain or discomfort
- Reddened, swollen gums
- Sometimes a fever
You can help ease your pup’s pain by offering puppy-specific toys that you freeze first such as a Chilly Bone. I bought my pup a teething toy that had to be dampened and placed in the freezer. He loved to rub his gums on it.
Some pet parents offer safe puppy toys that have different textures to accommodate different mouth sizes and needs.
Using Oral Care Products As Puppies Grow Up
By the time your puppy hits six months, he should have a dental routine in place. If you are reading this after the fact, it’s never too late to get started.
Use the mouth-handling techniques above and start incorporating these extras into your routine:
- Add Zymox Oratene brushless water additive to your puppy’s daily water supply. It freshens breath, prevents plaque buildup, and promotes healthy teeth and gums. Since it contains no alcohol, Xylitol, detergents, or chlorhexidine, you can feel safe using it as part of your puppy’s dental care routine. Of note, this product cannot be used with self-watering systems with filters.
- Use Oratene breath freshener for in-between moments. This product is recommended for pups in need of gentle, non-drying oral care. Shake well and spray three pumps onto teeth, gums, and inside cheeks. A four-ounce bottle provides up to 900 pumps.
- Provide age-appropriate safe puppy chews and toys that can help ease the pain of teething. Just like human babies have teething rings, there are products available for puppy gum and teeth pain. I am not a fan of Nylabone products, but I do like safe puppy toys. I used all the products on that list during my puppy’s first year of life.
Puppy Teeth Problems To Watch For
Just because you have a puppy 12 months of age or less doesn’t mean they are immune to dental problems. Here are a few things to watch (and smell) for in your puppy:
- Unexplained stinky breath. Puppy breath is undeniable in those first few months, but it should never smell rancid. Talk to your veterinarian about this.
- Brown spots or tartar on teeth. Believe it or not, plaque and tartar can start forming by age one.
- Smelly mouth. It could be canine lip fold dermatitis.
- Retained baby teeth. This happened to my Cocker Spaniel pup, Alvin. He still had three baby teeth that didn’t fall out. Right before he turned one, they fell out. I talked to my veterinarian about this, and we monitored my dog. In some cases, the baby teeth can cause alignment issues, so always check with your vet in case about potentially removing them.
- Fractured teeth. Giving a puppy a hard bone or a plastic toy can lead to tooth damage such as fractures and breaks. Fractured teeth need to be addressed ASAP with a veterinarian, as they are painful.
- Missing teeth. Some pups are born without all their teeth, which may or may not be a problem. If the teeth are hidden in the gum line and doesn’t erupt by the time the pup is 8 or 9 months, it may need to be x-rayed. Your vet may choose surgery so a painful cyst doesn’t form.
- Malocclusions. Some puppies develop crooked teeth or improperly aligned teeth. If your pup is in pain, a veterinary orthodontist will need to be consulted.
Here’s a general overview of when you can expect your puppy’s teeth to emerge. By the time he reaches six to seven months old, he will have his adult teeth. Think of how fast that is considered to how long it takes human kids to get their full set of adult teeth. Tooth fairy, anyone?
|Puppy’s Age||Secondary Teeth|
|12 to 20 weeks||Incisors erupt (tiny front teeth – 6 upper and 6 lower incisors)|
|12 to 16 weeks||Canines erupt (larger pointed ‘fangs’ – 2 upper and 2 lower)|
|16 to 24 weeks||Premolars erupt (‘double’ teeth at rear of mouth – 6 upper and 6 lower)|
|20 to 28 weeks||Molars erupt|
It is very important to care for your puppy’s teeth during these stages to ensure good oral health.
Do Puppies Require A Professional Dental Cleaning?
In most cases, no. Unless there is a major problem requiring dental work under anesthesia, your puppy won’t require a professional cleaning in his first year of life.
Some breeds are more prone to dental issues, such as Yorkshire Terriers. Depending on your dog’s individual situation, a dental cleaning may occur by the time the dog is two years old.
You can understand why at-home dental care using products from Zymox can greatly reduce the chances your puppy will have dental issues.
FAQs About Puppy Teeth Care
This dental gel is a natural, multi-complex enzyme system that dissolves plaque biofilm & inhibits odor-causing bacteria to help balance oral flora. Nothing artificial.
Teething is at its worst for puppies in the 12- to 20-week range.
No, never use human toothpaste on a puppy or adult dog. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that should never be swallowed and can cause stomach upset or worse.
The typical teething period is from when your puppy’s first tooth falls out until his last tooth grows in.
Zymox is giving away two dental health kits to two lucky winners.
The two lucky winners are: James Moritz and Pat Conmy. Congrats and thanks to everyone who entered!
Simply comment below with the name of the dog or puppy who will be using Zymox dental products if you win. Enter one time per email address. One winner will be selected at random on Tuesday, February 28th. Good luck. USA only.
Our rules and policies may be viewed here.
Rip loves to have a nice, pearly white smile and fresh breath.
Our 4 1/2 year old Cocker Spaniel, Suzie, just had her teeth cleaned and a few teeth removed. We brush her teeth regularly but we are always looking for new products to try!
Kylie Rose will be using the Oratene products. 😊
I started a little late but we are working on the brushing now, she has bad breathe, lol!
Holly will be using the products if she wins! We brush her teeth weekly! Always fun to try new products.
Punchy doesn’t love brushing his teeth, but we are working on better habits!
Sally May and remy would use these products to have nice clean. Teeth !
Mystic had dental surgery last year and will be using zymox to keep those all important teeth clean and healthy as a senior dog of 10.
My dogs, Boomer and Lexi along with my granddog, Dakota will be using these products. Toothbrushing is sometimes a challenge at our house but, we get it done!!
Katy and Koko are my two 9 year old cocker spaniels who would be using the zymox oral and dental products.
Bosco the 13 3/4 yo Senior has old man mouth which sometimes smells like a spetic tank. Doc says nothing terribly wrong, just Old Man Mouth. Would gladly try something else because kisses are a thing of the past… 🙂 🙁
Martok would love clean teeth.
Oratene products have been amazing for Aubrey; she still gets tartar but not nearly as severely as she used to.
Nikko will be the one to use this.
Stella will be using the products. She has terrible staining on her teeth and isn’t very cooperative when it’s time to brush her teeth.
Belle doesn’t love getting her teeth brushed, but she tolerates for her Mom ♥️
Miss Brinkli needs to get started on a good dental routine!
My Mr. Kirby would use the Zymox toothpaste everyday. The water additive would be a great addition!
Iceman will be using the product if I he wins. He needs to get a dental done in April
Brandy will be using Zymox
Phoebe, Bindi and Jovi all dislike teeth brushing. Would love to try some new products. Thanks.
Great post on the importance of puppy teeth cleaning! As a dog parent, it’s so important to prioritize our pup’s dental health from a young age to prevent any potential dental issues in the future. The tips and techniques you shared for at-home teeth cleaning are very helpful, especially for those who may be hesitant to try it on their own. I also appreciate the recommendation for professional teeth cleaning and the reminder to schedule regular vet appointments. Overall, a fantastic resource for any puppy parent looking to keep their furry friend’s teeth healthy and clean. Thanks for sharing!
Parker would be the lucky beneficiary of these amazing Zymox products…He’s been such a good boy with a good bill of health from the vet on his dental hygiene..Just yesterday as a matter if fact and he’s going on 10 this April …
Joy will be using the Zymox dental products. I have been looking for a better product to use & the reviews on Zymox sounds great. She is 10 1/2 now & it’s very important to keep her teeth in good condition.
Balsam and Echo will be sharing if we win.
Tobie would love clean teeth. He is 7 month old cocker spaniel:)
Viggo the WonderPup loves his brushy-brushy!
My furbabies are Cain, Whitley and Josie. I use Oxyfresh in their water to help with teeth and mouth cleaning. I’d love to have them try this.
My fur baby’s are Hope 5 years old
Dazy 3 years old
Charlie would be delighted to win this!Zymox is great.
Duke will be the dog using the prizes. He definitely needs some oral help. Lol
Willow is my 10 year old cocker spaniel service dog. She loves Zymox products and would love to win this product so her breath stays fresh and she doesn’t have problems with her teeth so her Mommy (me) won’t worry about her and we can have many adventures.
These products sound amazing. We love your shampoo and would love to try out all of these products as well! Midnight Belle deserves the best. Thank you for helping to make our sweet dogs natural and healthy.
I need to be better at cleaning Daphne’s teeth, so we would both benefit from winning dental products from Zymox!!