Many people have heard the old wives' tale that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's, but is this true? Our team of vets in East Setauket discusses dog dental care, how to clean your dog's teeth and whether their mouths and teeth are cleaner than yours.

Is your dog's mouth cleaner than yours?

There is an age-old myth that says a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. Unfortunately, that is all it is—a myth. While there are some similarities in the types of bacteria found in both species, dogs have a greater variety of dental bacteria than humans. Dogs' mouths contain approximately 600 different species of germs, while humans have around 615 and counting.

So, when it comes to breaking down the differences in the bacteria in the mouth, a dog's mouth is entirely different. There are a few minor similarities in bacteria. One example is the bacterial family called Porphyromonas, which can cause periodontal disease in dogs and humans. Billions of germs gradually accumulate on the teeth's surface, leading to issues like bad breath, gum recession, tooth root abscesses, and bone damage around the tooth roots.

Suppose your dog is showing signs of early periodontal disease. In that case, it can be remedied with both at-home oral hygiene and care and professional veterinary dog dental care.

Can you get infections and diseases from dog saliva?

While the risk of contracting an infection from a dog's saliva is low, it is never zero. Dogs can spread bacterial and viral diseases through their saliva. These illnesses can be transmitted if a dog bites you or their saliva enters your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Bacterial Infections

The bacteria in your dog's saliva can be transmitted through bites. These bacteria have the potential to cause serious infections. One of the bacteria, Capnocytophaga canimorsus, can be transmitted through the bite wound. Another common bacteria found in a dog's mouth is Pasteurella canis, which is often present in people whose dog has bitten. The severity of the dog bite depends on where the wound is located and whether the person's immune system is compromised or vulnerable.

If you get bitten by a dog, clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes before seeking medical help. If your dog eats food contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli, these harmful bacteria can be transmitted to you if your dog's saliva comes into contact with your mouth. A dog on a raw food diet may be more likely to carry these types of bacteria.


One of the most dangerous infections a dog can transmit through saliva is rabies. This infection also spreads through a bite from an infected animal. Once inside the body, the virus affects the nervous system and leads to various symptoms. Initially, dogs may show signs of anxiety and nervousness. As the disease progresses, dogs become aggressive, lose coordination, and feel disoriented.

If you see any pet, person or animal displaying the signs of rabies, you should contact the local authorities or animal control immediately. Make sure to keep a safe distance. Unfortunately, when a dog, person, or wild animal shows signs of rabies, it is almost always fatal.

Is dog saliva bad for your skin?

Saliva can not easily penetrate the skin, so making a lick is fairly harmless. However, if you are allergic to dog saliva, your skin may develop hives, a rash, or become extremely itchy.

How to Keep Your Dog's Mouth Clean

Proper dental care for dogs is crucial for maintaining a clean and healthy mouth. Learning how to clean a dog's mouth is essential to this care. A simple and effective method is to schedule regular dental appointments for your dog. We suggest doing this at least once a year or more frequently if your dog is experiencing dental problems like periodontitis.

At , when you bring your dog for a dental checkup, our veterinarians will conduct a thorough oral examination. Some of the signs of dental conditions that your vet will look for include:

  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Bleeding around the mouth
  • Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
  • Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Bad breath

If your dog experiences an untreated oral health condition, it can lead to pain, discomfort or even severe complications. Suppose you observe signs of periodontal disease in your pet, such as reduced appetite (indicating tooth pain), unusual chewing, excessive drooling, difficulty holding food in the mouth, unpleasant breath, or other symptoms. In that case, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian promptly. They will assist you in scheduling a dental appointment for your pet.

Our comprehensive dental care involves thoroughly cleaning and polishing your dog's teeth, addressing the areas above and below the gum line. We also conduct tooth probing and x-rays, followed by a fluoride treatment and a dental sealant to prevent future decay and damage. In cases of advanced periodontal disease, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan to restore your pet's mouth to a pain-free and healthy condition.

Should I brush my dog's teeth?

As a pet owner, you play an essential role in helping your dog fight dental disease. Here are a few simple ways you can help keep your dog's mouth healthy and clean his teeth:
  • Brush your pet's teeth daily with a finger brush from your vet or a child's toothbrush to remove any plaque or debris. It's as straightforward as brushing your own teeth. If your dog resists cleaning its teeth, try doggie toothpaste in flavors your dog will love. This dog-friendly toothpaste can transform a chore into a treat.
  • Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your pet's teeth and gums. These products act as a barrier to prevent plaque buildup.
  • Offer your pup treats such as dental chews or food designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.

Dental care is an integral part of your pet's overall health. Book your pet's annual dental appointment today, and your dog will thank you. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog need to visit us for a routine dental exam and cleaning? Contact our team at Setauket Animal Hospital today to schedule an appointment.