Brush your pet's teeth daily. Plaque can build up within a few hours and harden into tartar in a little over a day, just as it does for people, says Stephen C. Riback, DVM, veterinary dentist at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. Whether you're introducing a puppy or an older dog to a tooth-cleaning routine, Dr. Bannon advises owners to start slowly. Follow the sequence of steps below, working up to a full brushing over 2 weeks:
1. Have your pet lick the toothpaste off the brush.
2. Work the brush into her mouth and touch just the front teeth (the incisors and canines).
3. As she becomes accustomed to the toothbrush touching her teeth and gums, move it farther into her mouth to clean more of the back teeth.
4. Point bristles at the gums or angle them underneath gums so that a third of the toothbrush massages the gum line as you work around your pet's mouth, brushing the outside surface of each tooth. You don't need to actually see the back teeth-just slide the brush between the teeth and cheek, and your cat or dog will produce a brushing action as she chews.