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Toothbrush | Paste

The Best Toothpaste and Toothbrush 
for a Shih Tzu

Overview

Dental care for your puppy or dog is a vital part of his or her overall at-home care. While some dental chews will remove a small amount of plaque, it is nothing compared to what a quality brush and paste will remove.
Puppies need to have their teeth brushed to keep gums healthy and to prevent decay and infection from spreading down deep to where adult teeth are waiting to erupt.

Adults need routine brushings to keep plaque from building up. Once it does, it becomes hardened into what is normally called tarter or calculus. This then forms an impenetrable layer on the tooth, allowing bacteria to eat away underneath.  

Decay and infection can then set in. This can cause a Shih Tzu quite a bit of pain and result in loose teeth that inevitably fall out. Infection can also spread up to the sinuses cavities. If left unchecked, it can travel all throughout the body and affect major organs such as the lungs, kidneys and even the brain.

All of this can be avoided by making sure that your Shih Tzu's teeth are properly brushed.

How Effective are Dental Wipes?

If it is your only tool available, wipes are certainly better than nothing. However, nothing can beat a quality toothbrush and the right paste to effectively clean a dog's teeth and gums.

Wipes are good for supplemental cleanings, however they will not have the abrasive quality that is needed to actually scrub away the particles that will develop into plaque.

What about Finger Brushes?
Similar to wipes, if this is your only means of brushing, it is better than nothing when it comes to at-home dental care. However, it will not have the density that a good brush will have. Additionally, the bristles on only on one side, which will lead to longer sessions to properly reach all surfaces.

These can be very helpful for dogs that need to slowly become accustomed to cleanings. These small plastic coverings with imbedded bristles (usually very short and not effective for long-term use) slip over your index finger, allowing you to then 'brush' the teeth. These can be a good starting point for some dogs that need time to get used to having their teeth touched. 

Choosing the Best Toothbrush for a Shih Tzu

When you are choosing a toothbrush, you'll want to keep a few things in mind:
1) Size - One of the most common issues that prevent an owner from being able to properly brush their dog's teeth is wrong sizing of the brush. You'll want a handle that allows you to have a solid grip and importantly, the size of the head which holds the bristles will need to fit inside your Shih Tzu's mouth with enough room for you to maneuver it over and around his teeth.
  
Since brushing all exposed side of the teeth and angling down toward the gum line is important for proper cleaning, you'll want a bristle head that is shaped and sized for toy breed dogs.

2) Firmness - Another common element that gets in the way of a brush doing its intended job is that over time, it becomes soft from use. Even if you chose the best brush for your puppy or dog, every 3 to 4 months, it should be replaced. If you use 3 to 4 new toothbrushes each year (a very small expense, relatively speaking), you'll be using a brush with proper firmness. 
3 sided toothbrush for Shih Tzu dog
3) Shape - Your Shih Tzu probably doesn't have tons of patience while you brush his teeth. Therefore, the best toothbrush will be one that does the job as fast as possible. Brushes that have 3 sides (the bristles will scrub over all 3 exposed sides of the teeth simultaneously) work excellent. In addition, if you obtain the right one, these heads will be angled at 45 degrees, which is optimal for correctly cleaning the gum line.

***** If you are not happy with the toothbrush you currently have for your puppy or dog or it needs replacing, you may wish to look to recommended brushes under 'Dental Care' in the Shih Tzu Specialty Shoppe.
The Best Toothpaste for a Shih Tzu

Choosing the right toothpaste for your Tzu is a vital part of dental hygiene. Using human products is a serious misstep that can cause dangerous toxicity. And using a cheap paste can greatly decrease the effectiveness of the brushing.

Why human toothpaste is so bad - Some owners make the mistake of thinking that warnings to stay away from human products is part of a marketing plan to see more canine-specific products; however this is not the case at all. There are 2 ingredients in human toothpaste that can cause terrible poisoning with dogs and for toy breeds like the Shih Tzu, not much is needed:

1) Fluoride - This chemical was first used mainly as an insecticide to kill bugs and as a poison to kill rodents (mainly rats). As preposterous as it may sound, it is a by-product of manufacturing (chiefly of the aluminum, copper and iron industries) and in the 1930's when governments did not have a good idea how to possibly dispose of it, they decided to add it to water supplies and toothpastes since in low quantities it appeared to help with tooth decay. 

During the 1970's and 80's dentists would put gobs of fluoride in mouth-guard type devices and have children sit for 30 to 60 minutes to allow the fluoride to sink into the teeth.  

Studies have proven that when you consume too much it has devastating health consequences. Two things to note: #1, Dogs swallow toothpaste, thus they WILL ingest it and #2 the line of 'how much is too much' is blurry at best.

It can cause teeth to weaken to the point of crumbling away, it can damage the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and for humans, it causes close to 10,000 bone cancer deaths per year in the US. Shocking? Yes. A reason to never brush your Shih Tzu's teeth with human toothpaste? Absolutely.

2) Xylitol - If reason #1 above was not enough, the other ingredient that can be harmful is xylitol, which can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar levels and can cause liver disease.

What makes a certain toothpaste good for a Shih Tzu?

You might be wondering if brushing with water would do the same thing as using some paste and if dogs really need canine toothpaste. The answer is that the correct paste does serve a few important purposes:

1) It will have mild abrasives that will work in conjunction with the brush to remove tiny particles of debris and bacteria. 

2) It will work to remove staining from the enamel of the teeth

3) It will have a pleasing taste (to a canine) that will play a huge role in how accepting the puppy or dog is to having his teeth brushed.

A nice added bonus is that quality toothpaste will also temporarily freshen a Shih Tzu's breath.

***** If you would like to see recommended products for the best toothpaste and brushes for the Shih Tzu breed, look to 'Dental Care' in the Shih Tzu Specialty Shoppe.
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