Dog teeth cleaning: How to save on dental care

11 December 2023 - 4 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren DVM MRCVS on 11 December 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Dog getting teeth cleaned

There are plenty of reasons to take care of your dog’s teeth, not least to keep your pup happy and smiling throughout the day!

In fact, caring for your dog's dental health is an essential part of responsible dog ownership and can help prevent a range of dental illnesses. However, it can be challenging to know when, and how, to clean a dog’s teeth - and what you can accomplish at home versus what needs to be done professionally. 

If you’re fretting about how to tackle your dog’s dental cleaning needs, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll take you through the dog teeth cleaning process step-by-step, look at the kit you’ll need, and talk about how much you might expect to pay for professional teeth cleaning. 

Why is it important to clean your dog’s teeth?

Just like humans, if a dog has strong white teeth it’s usually a sign of good dental health. However, a build-up of plaque and tartar can make a dog’s teeth look unpleasant - and worse, lead to serious dental diseases such as gingivitis. If plaque builds up for a long time, it will eventually cause a dog’s gums to recede, causing painful gum disease and potential further medical complications like abscesses or tooth death. 

Aside from the important issue of dental health, cleaning a dog’s teeth is also just a way to prevent bad breath, and make their smile more sparkly when they see you!

When to clean your dog’s teeth 

If your puppy’s baby teeth have fallen out and have been replaced by adult teeth, you’ll need to start cleaning them regularly. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis, but if you can’t manage that, weekly cleaning will be fine. 

What you’ll need to clean your dog’s teeth

Cleaning your dog’s teeth doesn’t require a lot of equipment. All you’ll need to do the job yourself is:

  • A dog toothbrush (soft bristled)

  • Dog toothpaste (human toothpaste is not suitable!)

  • Water in a small cup or thimble

You can purchase your dog teeth cleaning kit from your vet, a local pet store, a supermarket, or online retailers. 

How to clean your dog’s teeth

There’s no perfect way to brush your dog’s teeth and it’s important you find an approach that works for you and your dog. If you need a hand, think about the following step-by-step process as a way to get started:

  • In the days (or weeks) before you start brushing, get your dog used to having their mouth touched. Gently stroke or hold their jaw, nose, and mouth, and then give them a treat to let them know this will be a positive experience. Progress to putting a finger on their lips or teeth - and giving out another treat. Repeat the process regularly until your dog is comfortable. 

  • Let your dog get used to the toothbrush and toothpaste. Let them lick a small amount of the toothpaste from your hand, and let them see and sniff the toothbrush so they’re not alarmed when you use it on their teeth

  • Before you begin brushing, find a safe, comfortable space that you can sit with your dog and hold them still during the brushing. 

  • Dip your toothbrush, with toothpaste, into your water.

  • Start the brushing process on only one or two teeth, gently touching your dog’s gums, so they get used to the sensation. 

  • If your dog is happy, you can expand the brushing to cover the entire mouth. Use a circular motion as you brush and angle the toothbrush to get the sides and back of your dog’s teeth as necessary. 

  • For nervous or averse dogs, you may only be able to brush one or two teeth on the first try - and that’s ok! Reward your pup for tolerating those teeth, and stop for the day. Try two different teeth the next day, and keep going until you have covered the whole mouth. Always keep the experience positive.

  • When you’ve finished brushing, don’t forget to give your dog a cuddle to let them know they’ve been good!

How much does dog teeth cleaning cost?

If you purchase your toothpaste and toothbrush from a pet store, supermarket, or online retailer, you can expect to spend around £10. 

If you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, or if there is significant plaque build-up, you may choose to get your dog’s teeth cleaned professionally at a veterinary practice - in which case you can expect to pay a little more for the service. The cleaning process includes a scale and polish - under general anaesthesia to keep your dog calm and still. The anaesthesia is necessary to allow your vet to get a complete look at your dog’s mouth, take x-rays to assess the roots of its teeth, and to carry out any necessary treatments on diseased teeth (such as extraction).

In the UK, the average dog teeth cleaning cost is £235. Costs will vary and depend on things like the size of your dog, if any other treatments are required (beyond scaling and polishing), and on the location of your vet's practice. 

Unfortunately, tooth treatments offered by dog groomers (or similar businesses) do not provide the same level of appropriate evaluation that you would receive at your vet. These treatments do not allow for cleaning under the dog’s gumline or for a full assessment of the oral cavity itself. Owners should be aware of the differences between these two types of services. 

Managing Dog Dental Cleaning Costs

Remember, there are ways to reduce the cost of dog teeth cleaning:  

  • Preventive Care: Regular brushing and using the best pet dental products can reduce the need for professional cleanings.

  • Pet Insurance: Opting for a pet insurance plan with dental cover can mitigate unexpected expenses related to dog dentist costs.

  • Veterinary Payment Plans: Some veterinarians offer payment plans to help spread the cost of dental care over time.

Dog dental health warning signs

In addition to cleaning your dog’s teeth, you should check regularly for signs that they’re developing dental health problems. The sooner you can catch dental health issues, the easier (and potentially) cheaper it will be to deal with them. Look out for for the following signs: 

  • Significant deposits of material around the gums and teeth

  • Bleeding or damaged gums

  • Very bad breath

  • Highly sensitive teeth

  • Discoloured or loose teeth

  • Sudden weight loss or changes in eating habits 

If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, you should seek advice from a vet. 

Happy smiles, happier dogs

Your dog’s dental health is just as important as its physical and mental health, so you must put in the effort to clean their teeth regularly, and consult a vet to address any concerns. At the same time, your dog’s teeth cleaning, and everything that goes along with that process, doesn't have to break the bank. With preventive welfare measures, such as a good cleaning schedule and good observation, you can help your dog’s smile stay as bright as possible without paying needlessly for extensive treatment. 

Lewis Martins
Communities marketer

Lewis has worked in pet health since 2017. Before joining ManyPets in 2021, he led content production at VetForum and PetsApp. Lewis has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest vet groups and suppliers to write educational articles for vets and pet parents. His Instagram feed is 60% dogs, 40% cats.