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Dog Teeth Tartar: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What does Dog Teeth Tartar Look Like?

Dog teeth tartar is a hard brownish-grey substance often found on your dog’s teeth. It is formed from the calcium and other minerals in your dog’s saliva when they mix with food and plaque buildup on your dog’s teeth. Often, tartar is rock hard and needs to be removed with the help of special tools.

After your dog eats their meal, food, along with saliva, gets trapped in the gum line in your dog’s mouth. Over a period of time, this keeps building up with every meal and can form hard tartar when plaque mixes with minerals in your dog’s mouth.

Tartar can give your dog tooth decay, gum disease, periodontal disease, and other dental diseases. Eventually, the tartar will coat the entirety of your dog’s teeth and can even cause the teeth to fall out in some cases.

Vets Preferred Enzymatic Toothpaste for Dogs
  • Tasty peanut butter flavor - Your pets will love the taste while ensuring their dental health.
  • Works on all aspects of your pet’s health - Prevents heart, kidney and liver disease by preventing bacteria to enter their bloodstreams.
  • Antibacterial qualities for tartar and plaque prevention - Protect your dog from irreversible gum disease and countless vet visits.

What is the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar in Dogs?

Plaque is a soft, sticky, film that builds up on your dog’s teeth and gums throughout the day with every meal. It is home to millions of bacteria and needs to be removed at least twice a day with brushing or dental chews.

On the other hand, the plaque begins to form dog teeth tartar when it is not removed from the teeth. If allowed to remain on your dog or cat’s teeth, the plaque hardens into tartar which is often a lot more difficult to remove.

Since the process of removing dog teeth tartar is difficult, vets need to anesthetize dogs and cats when doing a dental cleaning. Unlike plaque, which is removed by brushing your pet’s teeth with a toothbrush, tartar needs to be scraped off with special tools.

This cannot be done with your pet being conscious, as it could become overwhelming for them. Therefore, it is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth to maintain good dental health.

Can I Scrape the Tartar Off My Dog’s Teeth?

Yes, there are a few techniques that can be used to remove dog teeth tartar. However, it will be really difficult for your dog to sit still during the process. Let us look at some of the ways by which you can remove the dog teeth tartar:

  • Use a Finger Toothbrush. This is among the most common ways to remove tartar from your dog’s teeth. But there can be more buildup of plaque and tartar along your dog’s gum line. A finger toothbrush can be difficult for your dog to make peace with and might require training to sit still while they clean their teeth.
  • Dental Cleaning. Taking your dog to the vet is the best way to ensure proper dental cleaning and dental care. The vet will slightly sedate your dog and clean the teeth, similar to what is done on humans. In addition to removing the tartar buildup, your vet can also take x-rays to see if any of the teeth are not okay.
  • Dental Chews. Dog dental treats and dental chews can effectively reduce the buildup of plaque and prevent diseases like gingivitis, among other dental problems. They also prevent early tooth loss and improve your dog’s breath. While these are not a substitute for professional cleaning, they do get the job done, much to the relief of pet owners. You can also use dog teeth cleaning toys or chew toys.

Is Tartar Painful For Dogs?

Dog teeth tartar itself is not painful for dogs.

However, as it builds up along the gum line, it pushes the gums away from the teeth, which might eventually expose the roots of the teeth and cause dental issues.

Additionally, it also removes the enamel leaving them open to sensitivities, causing your dog pain and discomfort.

Is Tartar Buildup Harmful to Dogs?

Yes, dog teeth tartar is harmful.

Tartar can lead to dental diseases, which are usually preventable. Problems such as abscesses, gum disease, and teeth rotting can be easily avoided.

Pet parents can opt for a thorough dental cleaning with the help of a vet. This is the first step to keeping your dog’s teeth healthy.

How Do I Remove Tartar From My Dog’s Teeth?

Here are some popular dental products for dogs helpful for managing dog teeth tartar.

Vets Preferred Dog Enzymatic Toothpaste

Vets Preferred Dog Enzymatic Toothpaste

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Summary: This product is sold in a delicious peanut butter flavor that most dogs love. It also prevents heart, kidney, and liver disease by restricting bacteria from entering their bloodstream. This product protects your dog from irreversible gum disease and countless vet visits. It also offers a 100% natural solution without any controversial ingredients. This toothpaste is made in the USA in a GMP-certified facility to ensure optimum quality and safety.

Review: The liquid texture can clean hard-to-reach dental spaces. It also helps to reduce plaque and dog teeth tartar buildup, as well as discoloration. Pet parents give this product 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Vets Preferred Oral Care Water Additive for Dogs

Vets Preferred Oral Care Water Additive for Dogs

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Summary: This water additive promotes good breath and is formulated with calcium that strengthens teeth. It gives your dog fresh breath and helps clean dog teeth, and maintains overall dog health. Additionally, it is also safe for cats. It also helps eliminate harmful bacteria in the pet’s mouth and reduces digestive system odors.

Review: Besides maintaining dental hygiene and preventing dog teeth tartar, this product also addresses heart, liver, & kidney diseases. It contains calcium that strengthens your dog’s teeth. Pet parents give this product 4.0 out of 5 stars.

Jasper 360º Dog Finger Toothbrush

Jasper 360º Dog Finger Toothbrush

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Summary: This product has a patent pending design that allows easy cleaning the entire mouth with just a few swipes. Pet owners can use this toothbrush to provide thorough teeth cleaning for their dogs or cats with ease. The toothbrush is 100% Silicone and is free from BPA and Phthalate. Adding a few drops of water inside makes the silicone expand for larger fingers and creates a seal for smaller fingers. This makes it perfect for all finger sizes.

Review: Silicone bristles are softer than traditional bristles but abrasive enough to remove plaque. The gentle nature of finger brushes tends to be more accepted by pets. Pet parents give this product for preventing dog teeth tartar 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Arm & Hammer for Pets Tartar Control Kit for Dogs

Arm & Hammer for Pets Tartar Control Kit for Dogs

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Summary: This dog dental kit is gentle yet effective in reducing tartar buildup, eliminating the dog’s bad breath, and whitening and brightening your dog’s teeth. It also contains natural ingredients that ensure optimal dental health for your dog. It comes in a tasty beef flavor that your dog will absolutely love. For first-time brushers, put a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and invite the dog to lick it off. Slowly progress to rubbing your finger along the gum line and teeth.

Review: Infused with baking soda, this dental kit is suitable for all dogs and puppies and is a safe, gentle, and effective way to care for your dog’s dental health and prevent dog teeth tartar. Pet parents give this product 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Will Coconut Oil Remove Tartar From a Dog’s Teeth?

No, coconut oil is not suitable for removing plaque from teeth or infection in the gums.

However, when used as a toothpaste, the oil can work wonders and keep your dog’s teeth pearly white. Simply apply some coconut oil to your dog’s toothbrush and brush the teeth in a circular motion.

Coconut oil also promotes a healthy mouth and gums. However, if your dog has bad breath also, it might require dental cleaning. After the cleaning, the teeth can be kept spic and span with daily brushing.

When Should I Go to the Vet for Teeth Tartar in Dogs?

It is recommended that your dog visits a vet for dental appointments at least once a year.

During these visits, you can expect a thorough cleaning of your dog’s teeth and gums. This is a great way to keep plaque and dog teeth tartar under check.

Additionally, if your dog has the following symptoms, it might be time for a dental checkup from your vet:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Problems eating, loss of appetite (only in the most severe cases)
  • Red, swollen, bleeding gums (usually the molars in the back of the mouth)
  • Loose, broken, missing teeth
  • Blood in saliva or nasal discharge
  • Lesions in mouth

How do I Prevent Dog Teeth Tartar?

Brushing your dog’s teeth during the plaque stage can prevent the formation of dog teeth tartar.

Make sure you brush and wipe your dog’s teeth daily. It is best to remove the plaque before it turns into tartar.

Keep in mind that human toothpaste should not be used for dogs as it contains some ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

Additionally, some dog foods offer unique-shaped kibble that helps clean your dog’s teeth. Talk to your vet about dog food catered toward dental health problems.