Taking care of teeth should start as early as possible. You do not want to wait until tartar builds up. Tartar sitting under the gum line is what causes periodontal disease and gum recession. Hence the best prevention is routine daily or at least every other day brushing. Waiting until enough builds up and then scale the teeth does not really prevent periodontal disease. Debris that sits on the teeth more than 2 days is not brushable with a toothbrush, hence the need for regular daily brushing.
My suggestion is keep it by the leash so you can do the teeth brushing before one of the daily walks. It makes it a routine so not lapse any days and also will be associated with a positive activity and better accepted.
If brushing the teeth is not realistic or you want additional help:
-We have had very good success with Science Diet Oral Care which is available for dogs and cats. It is kibble formulated in such a shape and texture that it helps brush the teeth with every chew. You can order here.
- We have also found Oravet Chews for dogs very helpful when given daily or every other day- they stick to the tooth and pull tartar as they chew it and can order here.
Stay away from dog bones, antlers and hard nyla bones- they can often fracture teeth and result in the need for extraction.
If there is visible tartar buildup already, you should have the teeth cleaned professionally. This involves sedation or anesthesia in order to be able to clean under the gumline. This is the most important aspect since that is what leads to periodontal disease. Anesthetic cleaning is the standard of care, so can provide thorough charting of the teeth and to obtain dental radiographs. Anesthetic teeth cleaning is very safe. It involves an IV catheter for IV fluids, blood pressure and pulse oxymetry monitoring as well as gas anesthesia. It can be costly but is the only way to do a thorough job and extract any teeth. The best prevention is to keep brushing the teeth and offering good quality dental treats- that will reduce the number of anesthetic teeth cleanings in the pet's lifetime.
Why is anesthesia needed to clean the teeth? Why not perform without anesthesia? This video will illustrate why:
What is involved in an anesthetic teeth cleaning? Why is it so expensive? This is from another hospital but it is what veterinarians do in an anesthetic dentistry: