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Is a dog's mouth cleaner than a human's mouth?

You may have heard the expression that a dog's mouth is actually cleaner than a human's, but this this truth or fiction? Our veterinary team in Rabun County discusses dental care for dogs, how to clean your dog's mouth and teeth, and whether their mouth is cleaner than yours. 

Is your dog's mouth cleaner than yours?

If you've heard the old tale that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's, you're not alone. However, that's all it is. Different microbes are found in dog and human mouths. While there are some overlap in the types of bacteria between species, your dog's mouth also hosts a variety of dental bacteria that wouldn't be found in yours. 

Dogs have more than 600 different types of bacteria in their mouths, almost equal to the 615-plus types of bacteria found in human mouths. Other bacteria that dogs and humans pick up from their environments also add to those numbers. 

So, when it comes to describing the differences in bacteria in a dog's mouth versus a human's, those in a dog's mouth are entirely different. However, there are a few minor similarities in bacteria. One example is the bacterial family called Prophyromonas, which can cause periodontal disease in both dogs and humans. When billions of germs collect on the surface of the teeth, this can lead to issues like bad breath, gum recession, tooth root abscesses and even damage to the bone around the tooth roots. 

If your dog is showing signs of early periodontal disease, this can be treated with both at-home oral hygiene and care, as well as professional veterinary dog dental care. 

What are some infections that can be transmitted through your dog's saliva?

Your risk of contracting an infection through your dog's saliva is likely low. However, the risk is never zero. Dogs can spread bacterial and viral diseases through their saliva. You can contract these illnesses if a dog bites you, or if their saliva enters your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

Bacterial Infections 

The bacteria in your dog's saliva can be transmitted via bites and can cause serious infections. One of these bacteria is called Capnocytophaga canimorsus, and it can be transmitted through the bite wound. Another common bacteria in a dog's mouth is Pasteurella canis, and is often present in people who have been bitten by a dog. The severity of a dog's bite depends on the location of the wound and whether the person's immune system is vulnerable or compromised in some way. 

If you are bitten by a dog, clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes before you seek medical help. If your dog eats food contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli, you may also contract these harmful bacteria if your mouth comes into contact with your dog's saliva. A dog that eats 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 their saliva is rabies. This infection also spreads through a bite from an infected animal. Once the virus is inside the body, it affects the nervous system and triggers various symptoms. Initially, dogs may exhibit signs of nervousness or anxiety. Dogs become aggressive as the disease progresses. They may also feel disoriented and lose coordination. 

If you see any pet, animal or person displaying symptoms of rabies, contact the local authorities or animal control right away. Be sure to maintain a safe distance. Unfortunately, by the time a dog, person, or wild animal displays signs of rabies, the disease almost always becomes fatal. 

Is it safe for my dog to lick me?

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

How to Clean a Dog's Mouth

Proper dental care for dogs is crucial for maintaining a clean and healthy mouth. Learning how to clean your dog's mouth, including their teeth. is an important part of 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 Rabun Animal Hospital, our veterinarians will conduct a thorough oral examination when you bring your dog for a dental checkup. 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 serious complications. If 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, 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 the application of a dental sealant to prevent future decay and damage. In cases of advanced periodontal disease, we will work together with you to develop a treatment plan aimed at restoring 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 important role in assisting your dog in fighting 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 is resistant to having its teeth cleaned, try some doggie toothpaste in flavors that 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 important part of your pet's overall health. Be sure to book your pet's annual dental appointment today, 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.

Is it time for your dog's dental exam and cleaning? Contact our Rabun County vets to book an examination for your pup.

We Can't Wait To Meet You!

Rabun Animal Hospital is currently accepting new patients! Our wonderful veterinarians are dedicated to the health and happiness of Rabun County dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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Book Online (706) 746-5100