Keep your pet’s chompers healthy and strong with this vet-backed advice.


Brushing for about one to two minutes a day can prevent many types of dental disease.  Try doing it at night, as a sleepy pet might be more cooperative.  To get your pet comfortable, spend a week on each of the following steps, offering a treat after each session:  

Week One, let him smell and taste toothpaste made for pets.  

Week Two, apply a dab to his teeth.

Week Three, let him lick it off a pet toothbrush

Week Four, brush the front of his teeth, focusing on the gumline.  This area tends to collect the most tartar—and luckily is easy to reach.


If your pet is among the many who resist brushing, try wiping his teeth with gauze, a washcloth, a cotton swab (cats love swabs dipped in tuna juice), or a pet dental wipe.  If he won’t go for that either, ask your vet to prescribe kibble that can help prevent tartar buildup.  Or try dental chews, which work by scraping away plaque and tartar.


Antlers, hooves, bones, ice cubes, tennis balls, and hard yak cheese can damage teeth, so keep those off-limits.  To test whether something is safe for your pet’s teeth, see if it can snap in half or bend easily.  If it can, it’s likely OK.  Though rawhide is usually fine for teeth, some dogs can have trouble digesting it, so talk to your vet.  For a list of vet-accepted chews and treats for cats and dogs, go to  No matter which chew you choose, always supervise pets at treat time. 

(by June DeMelo for Real Simple, August 2020)