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7 Essential Tips to Prevent Shih Tzu Teeth Problems in 2023

As a Shih Tzu owner, you know how important it is to keep your pup’s teeth clean and healthy. Unfortunately, Shih Tzus are prone to developing painful dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease, and plaque buildup. In fact, by the age of three, 80% of dogs already have some signs of oral disease. Don’t let your furry friend become part of this statistic in 2023!

The best way to prevent shih tzu teeth problems is to make oral care a consistent part of your Shih Tzu’s daily routine. This article will provide 7 essential tips to help prevent dental issues in your Shih Tzu this year. By following these simple yet effective pieces of advice, you can help your pup maintain healthy teeth and gums for years to come. We’ll cover everything from daily brushing to dental diet to professional cleanings.

You’ll also learn about effective dental care products, like the veterinarian-approved Vet’s Best enzymatic dog toothpaste, that can further promote your Shih Tzu’s oral health. With a bit of effort using this guide, your dog can avoid unnecessary tooth extractions, gum disease, bad breath, and other problems down the road.

Tip #1: Brush Those Pearly Whites Every Day

Brushing your Shih Tzu’s teeth daily is by far the most effective way to prevent plaque buildup and keep their smile sparkling. Just like us, dogs can get plaque, tartar, and tooth decay if their teeth aren’t cleaned regularly.

Dental disease usually starts with a buildup of bacteria on the surface of the teeth. This sticky film, known as plaque, begins forming in as little as six hours after brushing. Over time, the plaque hardens into tartar that adheres to the teeth. Tartar above and below the gumline can lead to infection and painful gum disease.

By brushing daily, you physically remove any plaque and tartar before it has a chance to cause problems. Ideally, you should brush for two minutes, twice per day. Work the bristles along the gumline and over the surface of all sides of the teeth. Your vet can demonstrate proper brushing technique.

Invest in a soft-bristled toothbrush made specifically for dogs along with a dog-safe toothpaste. Let your Shih Tzu have a taste of the toothpaste so they associate brushing with that yummy flavor. Be patient, go slowly, and keep sessions positive and relaxed.

Make brushing as enjoyable as possible for both you and your pup. With time, your dog will likely come to accept it as part of their daily routine. Just be sure to give them lots of praise and perhaps a special treat afterwards so they look forward to these bonding moments.

By committing to a daily tooth brushing regimen this year, you can dramatically improve your Shih Tzu’s oral health. Don’t wait for them to develop plaque or tartar buildup. Be proactive and make brushing part of your dog’s daily care. Their smile and gums will thank you!

shih tzu teeth problems

Tip #2: Give Plenty of Dental Chews and Treats

In addition to brushing, giving your Shih Tzu specially formulated dental chews and treats is another great way to improve their oral health. These products are designed to mechanically scrape away plaque and tartar as your dog chews.

Look for veterinary dental chews and other products that have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval. This means the product has passed rigorous testing and shown efficacy in reducing plaque and tartar. Popular VOHC-approved options include:

You can also find dental treats like Purina DentaLife chews and Milk-Bone Brushing Chews that promote oral health. Offer a variety of textures and flavors to keep your Shih Tzu interested. Rotate between chews, treats, and interactive toys like Nylabone Dental Dinos to get full coverage over your dog’s teeth.

In addition to their teeth cleaning properties, chewing provides mental stimulation and stress relief for your pup. Make it a habit to give dental chews and treats after meals or as part of their regular dental care routine. Your furry friend will love chomping away on these tasty, tartar-fighting snacks.

With so many great dental chew products on the market, there’s no reason not to make them a regular part of your Shih Tzu’s oral care regimen. Doing so will help minimize the need for professional dental cleanings and protect their teeth for years to come. Just be sure to always monitor your dog anytime they are chewing to prevent choking hazards or ingestion of large pieces.

Tip #3: Choose Dental Diet Dog Food

Selecting the right dog food is key to promoting your Shih Tzu’s oral health. Look for a complete and balanced “dental diet” formula made to improve dog dental care. These foods are designed to mechanically scrub away plaque and tartar as your dog chews each crunchy kibble bite.

Specific characteristics that make certain dog foods better for dental health include:

  • Kibble size/shape – Large, angular kibble provides more chewing time and surface area to scrape teeth clean.
  • Hardness/crunch – The texture should provide an abrasive brushing action but not be so hard it poses a choking risk.
  • Ingredients – Antioxidants and polyphenols from ingredients like green tea and blueberries help inhibit bacteria growth.
  • Seal of approval – The VOHC certifies dog foods like Hill’s Prescription t/d that demonstrate proven dental health benefits.

When switching foods, transition gradually over a week or more to allow your Shih Tzu’s stomach to adjust. Feed the dental diet consistently at mealtimes rather than leaving food out all day. Choose a flavor your dog loves to ensure they eat every crunchy, plaque-removing bite!

Your veterinarian can recommend a scientifically formulated dental food that will keep your Shih Tzu’s teeth clean without compromising nutrition. Providing a dental diet along with other oral care is the best way to avoid expensive cleanings and keep their smile healthy for life. Be sure to monitor for signs of periodontal disease too and have regular dental checkups even when feeding a dental food.

Tip #4: Schedule Regular Veterinary Dental Cleanings

Even the most diligent at-home oral care can’t fully prevent tartar buildup on your Shih Tzu’s teeth. Most dogs require periodic professional dental cleanings to remove this hardened calculus that’s out of reach of toothbrushes and chews.

Veterinary dental cleanings are the gold standard for canine oral health. Your vet will perform a thorough cleaning above and below the gumline under general anesthesia. This allows them to safely scale off tartar, polish the teeth smooth, take x-rays, and perform minor extractions if needed.

For optimal dental health, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends professional cleanings at least annually. However, your vet will assess your individual Shih Tzu’s needs and determine the ideal frequency. Some dogs need cleanings as often as every 6 months.

While dental cleanings do require anesthesia, the risks are minimal with today’s advanced protocols. Your vet will perform pre-anesthetic bloodwork and monitor vitals closely throughout the procedure. The benefits far outweigh potential anesthesia risks for most dogs.

Professional cleanings are the only way to fully remove hardened tartar and reach below the gumline where periodontal disease starts. Don’t allow excessive buildup to persist and risk dental infections. Schedule regular veterinary cleanings to keep your Shih Tzu’s smile beautiful and their oral health at its best.

Tip #5: Watch for Retained Deciduous Teeth

Shih Tzus are prone to having retained deciduous or “baby” teeth. These are puppy teeth that fail to fall out naturally as the permanent adult teeth erupt. This is one of the most common dental issues seen in the breed.

Normally, a puppy will begin losing their 28 baby teeth at around 4 months old. The 42 permanent adult teeth should be fully emerged by about 6 months. If any deciduous teeth are still present beyond this age, they are considered retained.

The problem is the retained puppy teeth end up positioned alongside the new permanent teeth. This teeth overcrowding can trap food, cause misalignment, and lead to plaque and tartar buildup. Gum recession and dental disease often follow.

Check your Shih Tzu’s mouth regularly for any baby teeth mingled in beside the larger adult teeth, especially the canines. Also watch for teeth misalignment that suggests crowding. Report any retained deciduous teeth to your veterinarian.

Extraction of the retained puppy teeth is usually advised to prevent oral health issues down the road. This quick procedure can be done at the time of spay/neuter if completed around 6 months of age. Addressing this common developmental issue promptly helps ensure your Shih Tzu transitions smoothly to a healthy adult smile.

To monitor for retained deciduous teeth, follow these tips:

  • Examine your puppy’s mouth weekly during teething (4-6 months)
  • Look for smaller puppy teeth beside larger permanent teeth, especially canines
  • Watch for teeth misalignment that indicates crowding
  • Check gumlines for redness, swelling, or recession
  • Have your vet evaluate if any baby teeth remain past 6 months
  • Schedule extraction if recommended by your veterinarian
  • Address retained teeth promptly for best dental health outcomes

Keeping a close eye on your Shih Tzu’s developing teeth and addressing any retained deciduous teeth early on can prevent many painful dental issues down the road. Be vigilant and take action to ensure their baby teeth transition properly to a healthy permanent smile.

Tip #6: Stay Alert for Signs of Dental Disease

Even with diligent at-home care, it’s important to watch for any signs of emerging dental disease in your Shih Tzu. Catching problems early allows for quicker treatment before extensive damage occurs.

Warning signs to look for include:

  • Bad breath – Foul odor from the mouth is a red flag for infection.
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums – Inflammation indicates gingivitis.
  • Yellow or brown buildup on teeth – This calculus will progress to periodontal disease.
  • Abnormal chewing or eating – Difficulty biting or favoring one side signals an issue.
  • Loose or lost teeth – Advanced periodontal disease damages tooth attachments.
  • Face or muzzle swelling – An abscess or oral tumor may be developing.
  • Excessive drooling or pawing at the mouth – Signs of oral discomfort.

Don’t ignore subtle changes in your dog’s oral health. Bring any concerning symptoms to the attention of your veterinarian right away. They can perform a thorough dental exam, identify any disease present, and determine appropriate treatment.

Prompt action prevents progression to irreversible periodontitis leading to tooth loss. Be proactive about your Shih Tzu’s dental care and closely monitor their mouth for problems. Quick response and treatment will help restore their teeth and gums to health.

Tip #7: Offer Plenty of Chew Toys

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs like Shih Tzus. Take advantage of their instinct to chew by providing an array of safe, durable chew toys. Not only will this satisfy their needs, it also provides dental benefits.

Chew toys help scrape away soft plaque and tartar to avoid buildup. The abrasive action cleans teeth surfaces as your dog gnaws and bites down. Rotate different textures from rubber to rope toys to clean teeth from all angles.

Look for chew toys designed specifically for dental health. The uneven surfaces and indentations are ideal for trapping and removing debris from the teeth. Dental chew toys also help massage gums and prevent plaque from adhering.

Introduce new chew toys frequently to pique your Shih Tzu’s interest. Smaller options allow them to get full back teeth coverage. Monitor use to avoid excessive wear and ingestion of fragmented pieces.

By satisfying your dog’s innate chewing urge with the right toys, you can promote better oral hygiene and dental health. Chewing also provides mental stimulation and prevents destructive behaviors from boredom. Keep plenty of safe, durable chew toys handy for your teething puppy or adult Shih Tzu.

Recommended dental chew toys for Shih Tzus include:

  • Nylabone Dental Dinos – textured surface cleans teeth
  • Benebone Wishbone Chew Toy – nubs and ridges remove plaque
  • Picky Pup Rubber Stimulation Toy – cleans teeth and gums
  • Mammoth Dental Stick – small size for tiny Shih Tzu mouths
  • Kong Dental Stick – grooves clean teeth down to the gumline
  • Puppy Teething Rings – soothes sore gums while teething

With the wide variety of dental chew toys now available, you can easily find options your Shih Tzu will love. Let them chew to their heart’s content while also boosting their dental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I brush my Shih Tzu’s teeth?

Ideally, you should brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth twice per day for around 2-3 minutes each time. This allows you to thoroughly clean all surfaces of the teeth. At a minimum, aim to brush their teeth at least 3-4 times per week to help remove plaque before it turns into tartar and leads to dental disease. Daily brushing is best, but anything is better than nothing when it comes to your Shih Tzu’s oral care routine.


Look for a veterinary-approved toothpaste made specifically for dogs. These come in yummy meat flavors like poultry and beef that dogs love. Veterinary toothpastes also contain enzymes that help break down plaque. Avoid using human toothpaste which can upset your dog’s stomach since they are not meant to be swallowed. There are many great veterinary toothpaste options including CET Poultry Toothpaste, Vet’s Best Gel Toothpaste, and Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste.


A crunchy kibble dental diet is best to help scrape away plaque and tartar from your Shih Tzu’s teeth as they chew. Look for one with the VOHC seal of approval. Avoid feeding primarily soft, wet foods that can get stuck in crevices and lead to more plaque buildup. Some dogs may need a mix of kibble and canned food, but be sure at least half their diet is a dry dental formula with large crunchy pieces and abrasive textures.


Go slowly with positive reinforcement like small treats and verbal praise. Let them sample the dog toothpaste flavor first so they associate it with a reward. Try using your finger or a piece of gauze initially rather than a toothbrush if needed. Make it a relaxing experience by gently massaging their lips and gums too. With time, consistency, and patience, your Shih Tzu will likely accept daily tooth brushing as part of their routine.


Look for VOHC-approved dental chews like CET Veggiedent Chews or Greenies to supplement brushing. The VOHC seal means these treats have undergone testing to prove they reduce plaque and tartar. You can also offer dental treats like Purina DentaLife in flavors your dog loves. Vary textures and flavors to keep your Shih Tzu excited about these beneficial chewing snacks that clean their teeth.

Conclusion – Shih Tzu Teeth Problems

Proper dental care should be a top priority for Shih Tzu owners in 2023. These adorable pups are prone to developing plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and other painful dental diseases over their lifetime. However, you can help prevent these common tooth and gum problems in your furry friend by following the tips outlined in this article.

Implementing daily tooth brushing, dental chews, choosing the right dental diet dog food, scheduling professional cleanings, and monitoring for issues are all key steps to take. Providing your Shih Tzu with appropriate chew toys and addressing any retained deciduous teeth early on also helps maintain their oral health. 

While dental disease starts small with bacteria and plaque buildup, it can progress to irreparable periodontal problems. Stop it in its tracks through diligent at-home care and regular veterinary cleanings. Keep your eyes peeled for warning signs of emerging issues too.

With a proactive approach to your Shih Tzu’s oral hygiene this year, you can ensure their teeth and gums stay healthy for years to come. Your efforts will allow them to eat, play, and smile comfortably while also preventing potentially dangerous systemic issues linked to poor dental health.

Here’s to many more years of happy smiles and healthy teeth for your beloved Shih Tzu! With persistence and love, you can get ahead of dental disease through simple prevention.

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