Dental health is just as important in canines as it is in humans, but we know it's much more difficult to maintain. If your dog has been socialized by the breeder properly, and trained to the highest standard, he may actually stand there with his mouth open and allow you to brush his teeth. However, we doubt very much that the majority of dogs out there will allow this...and not because of socialization or training, but because dogs don't brush their own teeth, so it's a very foreign concept for them. If your dog will tolerate it, daily brushing is ideal. but dogs do employ a method for cleaning their teeth own, which is where we, as their humans who love them, come in.
Dogs keep their teeth clean by chewing on things. None of us want them chewing on our belongings though, so we must provide them with something to chew on which will help keep their teeth and mouth healthy. Our recommendation, first and foremost, are rope toys. They act as flossers for a dog's teeth, and are wonderful teeth cleaners. They are usually inexpensive and easy to clean...just throw them in the washing machine.
There are several other types of toys on the market which are designed to help keep a dog's teeth clean. Nylabone Super Tough Durables Chews are designed to actually brush the dog's teeth as he chews. And Nylabone and numerous other manufacturers have a host of dental chews in a variety of shapes. They each have little bumps on them which help to clean plaque off of teeth during chewing. Nylabone also has a line of toys called Rhino. They come in different shapes, but each has a rope attached to it. One is a ball with grooves that have little bristles inside, which would brush the teeth during chewing. And, also from Nylabone, the Double Action Dental Chew, which offers both a nylon and softer rubber mint flavored chewing option (which helps to freshen breath), both which offer plaque removal. Kong has a dental toy as well. It's a grooved rubber toy with a rope on each end. The grooves scrape plaque off the teeth as the dog chews.
There are also a variety of edible chews on the market that are supposed to help clean teeth. These have improved immensely over the years, and do help with teeth cleaning. However, they should be used with caution. Any edible treat adds to your dog's daily calorie intake, so using these as daily teeth cleaning treats may be problematic, especially for dogs that are prone to weight issues. For those dogs, these chews are better left as ocassional treats.
If you are among the lucky ones whose dog will tolerate brushing, there are a variety of brushes and cleaning pastes on the market. I prefer the finger brushes, as they are much easier to control, but if you prefer a plastic brush, make sure you use one designed for a dog. The shape can make a difference in how clean it leaves your dog's teeth. When it comes to choosing a paste, keep in mind that many dogs do not care for the flavor of mint. Vanilla, peanut butter or even meat flavored pastes may be a better option.
Also keep in mind that you only need to brush the outside of your dog's teeth. The inside of the teeth are kept clean by the dog's tongue, so no need to stress your dog out with the highly intrusive brushing inside his mouth.
Of course, a dental cleaning by your vet is a good idea too. However, we do have some concerns about this with small breed dogs. Any time a dog has his teeth cleaned, he must be put under general anesthesia. Most times, it's not a great idea to put a small breed dog under like that..it can create many complications. This is especially true for really tiny dogs. That's not to say that you shouldn't have your small breed's teeth cleaned. We just recommend that you don't do it any more often than necessary.