How to Clean a Dog's Mouth

5 - 10 Minutes
1 Day


Barkley cuddles up with you on the couch, he's so glad to see you! But when he leans close to you, his breath nearly knocks you out! 

If your dog has bad breath or has been gumming something disgusting--poop seems to be a favorite thing for dogs to pick up in their mouths--you may want to clean his mouth. Not only does your dog require regular dental care and cleaning, but sometimes his gums, jowls, and tongue can be harboring dirt and bacteria and smell rather awful! 

There are several methods to clean out your dog’s mouth, including regular teeth brushing, manually wiping out your dog's mouth, and giving your dog mouthwashes or dental treats that will disinfect, clean, and dislodge debris that is unsightly or smelly. Remember that a dog's saliva naturally neutralizes bacteria and carries it away, so working with this natural defense by providing chew items that increase production of saliva is often adequate. But there are other actions you can take to clean your pup's mouth if it is particularly smelly or dirty, or just for your peace of mind.

Dog's Perspective

From your dog’s perspective, his mouth does not need cleaning, his saliva cleans his mouth naturally, and if you just give him something to chew on, he’s good with that! However, if your dog has been mouthing a filthy item like a dead squirrel or been rummaging through the cat litter box, you may not be comfortable with the “saliva as cleaner” solution alone and may want to wipe out your dog's mouth. Be careful not to shove a large cloth or your hand into your dog's mouth unexpectedly. Besides the fact that your dog will find this startling and may react badly, even defensively, you do not want to cause your dog to gag. Taking your time with cleaning your dog's mouth with smaller items like a toothbrush or a gauze wrapped finger will be better accepted.

Caution & Considerations

  • Do not use human mouthwash or toothpaste as it is not appropriate for dogs and can be toxic.
  • Do not gag your dog by inserting a large cloth or your finger or toothbrush too far into your dog’s mouth.
  • Work slowly and confidently, to get your dog comfortable with having his teeth brushed and his mouth wiped out.
  • Check for issues like inflamed, red, gums or broken, rotten teeth that may need veterinary care.


Although your dog has natural processes in place to clean his own mouth, sometimes he may need a little extra help if his mouth becomes particularly smelly, or covered in some noxious substance. You can clean it directly by wrapping a cloth around your finger and gently wiping it out with salt water, baking soda or even coconut oil. Be careful not to gag your dog. Alternatively, you can add mouthwash to your dog's water or increase his natural saliva production with a dental chew.  Also, brushing your dog's gums and lips when you clean his teeth daily will keep his mouth spic and span.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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