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Your Shih Tzu Puppy Dental Care Guide

How to Brush a Puppy's Teeth

Start off right with a puppy dental care plan. 

You’ll be glad you did, not only to keep those teeth shiny and breath smelling clean, but to also prevent costly dental visits to your vet later on.  

Puppy Dental Care Primer

A puppy is born toothless, but in three, to four weeks, the teeth begin to come in.  Some baby teeth erupt sooner, some later.  They start with the incisors, then the canine and premolars. They do not get molars until the adult teeth erupt.

I assume there is much discomfort involved with teething, but I have never witnessed the whining, crying and other behaviors that often accompany a human infant’s teething pain.  You will know that the puppy is teething because they will want to gnaw on everything and most find human fingers irresistible. 

A puppy will keep these baby teeth until about the age of 4 or 5 months when they begin to lose them as the adult teeth gradually come in.

Just like human babies, puppies lose their teeth gradually.  By 3 months, some of the puppy’s incisors begin to fall out.  You will begin to see the adult canine teeth and molars start to emerge. 

By 7 to 8 months, all adult dog teeth have replaced the puppy teeth leaving the dog with a mouthful of 42 adult dog teeth.  The lovely aroma of puppy breath disappears when the adult dog teeth replace the baby teeth. 

Do not worry if you do not find any baby teeth because most of the time the puppy swallows them.  This is not harmful and no cause for alarm.  Occasionally adult dog teeth come in where the baby teeth have not fallen out.  In these cases, veterinarians will often remove the baby teeth during the time when the puppy is spayed or neutered.

Why Start a Puppy Dental Care So Young?

One of the best ways to prevent dental problems is to start early even when the puppy still has his baby teeth. 

Years ago, people believed that the way to keep a dog’s teeth clean and sparkling was to feed a good kibble, supplement with dog biscuits and provide rawhide bones.  We now know that this is not enough –good puppy dental care can prevent tooth decay and bacterial infections from entering the bloodstream and causing great pain for your dog. 

The more often you brush your dog’s teeth, the better, but, if you can’t brush every day, set a goal for a couple times per week. 

When to Start a Puppy Dental Care Program

Don't wait until the adult dog teeth come in.  Begin right from the start.  Puppies need care too and it is never too early to start brushing their teeth.  Start out with very short session as soon as you obtain your dog. 

Puppy Dental Care: How To

Before you add a toothbrush, to your routine, consider placing a small amount of doggie toothpaste on your index finger and massaging the puppy's gums gently.  Once puppy has accepted a human finger into his mouth, you are ready to introduce a tooth brush, finger brush or wipe.

Puppies are squirmy and are likely to resist your efforts, so the first couple of sessions might consist of an introduction to the toothpaste and toothbrush.  The puppy’s first reaction to tooth brushing is most likely going to be a propensity to chew on the brush. 

Once you feel your puppy is ready gently go over his teeth, as you would your own, in a circular manner from the gums to the ends of the teeth.  It’s easier to work on the side of the teeth closest to the gums and that is where most of the tartar accumulates. 

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Do not worry too much if you cannot get to the other side of the tooth.  If you do this on a regular basis, your dog will begin to tolerate it better and you can take the time to inspect the mouth for other potential problems.

If your puppy resists the toothbrush, you have several other options.  Rubber finger brushes work well in tiny mouths.  You can also purchase dental wipes that you can use to wipe down the teeth and gums. 

If you prefer, you can also use small gauze square sprinkled with a dab of toothpaste.  This might be the easiest way to transition to the toothbrush because the puppy becomes accustomed to the taste of toothpaste.

Hints to Make Puppy Dental Care Easier

  • Offer your puppy human treats such as veggie sticks or fruit.  Puppies generally like carrot sticks, apples, or even raw green beans.  Don't force the issue if this isn't on your puppy's favorite foods list.
  • Purchase dental chews and offer them as a treat.  I like to give my dogs a dental stick when they go into their crates, either while I'm out or at night.  Some of my favorites are Greenies and Nutrident. Some dog food manufacturers provide their own versions the dental sticks.

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  • Many dogs like hard biscuit treats.  I prefer those that are of the same high quality as the dog food.  These also help with teething puppies, but do not work well as a training treat.  

  • What about dental sprays?  I've used several on dogs that just refuse any form of tooth brushing and they have worked for me moderately well.  I personally do not think they replace teeth brushing, but that's just my opinion. 

Most people agree that dental problems are worse in small breed dogs, so caring for those canine teeth from the very beginning is the best way to save costly trips to the veterinarian for professional cleaning. 

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