Dental care for dogs

What dental treatments are available for dogs?

There are many ways to take care of dogs' teeth:

  • By brushing their teeth;
  • By feeding them dental food and treats;
  • By using dental products such as water additives, dental gels, enzymatic products, chewing strips, etc.
  • By scaling their teeth regularly.

The best way to keep dogs' mouths and teeth healthy for as long as possible is to combine these actions.

Teeth brushing

Brushing the teeth removes dental plaque, which is the white pasty layer that forms on the teeth every day. However, brushing does not remove the tartar that forms after 36 hours, when the plaque mineralizes.

It is necessary to use toothpaste designed for animals and not for humans. Indeed, those contain detergents that irritate the stomach if swallowed. In addition, the toothpaste should have an enzymatic effect to soften small tartar particles.

In order for dogs to let you brush their teeth, you have to get them used to it when they are young and go step by step. The animals must be comfortable with each step before moving on to the next. To do this, it is important to offer them treats, caresses and sweet words each time. It is also necessary to practice several times a day in a quiet place.

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Gently manipulate your pet's muzzle and lips with your fingers;

2. Put some toothpaste on your finger and spread it over his teeth and gums;

3. Repeat the previous step, but with a toothbrush this time. At first, apply only slight pressure on the teeth, then increase it gradually. Also increase the time you spend on each tooth.


Contrary to what many people believe, dry food does not clean teeth better than moist food. Indeed, although kibbles help to dislodge food stuck between teeth, they do not remove plaque.

In fact, the formation of the plaque does not depend on the amount of water in the food. Rather, plaque forms following a reaction between:

  • Saliva,
  • Bacteria in the mouth,
  • Constituents of food.

Many kinds of dog foods on the market claim to clean teeth, but this is not always true. Those that are really effective have the VOHC seal on their bags.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council is an independent organization that tests foods that pretend to clean the teeth. If it indeed proves that the food reduces plaque and tartar buildup, and/or gingivitis by at least 20% then the company affixes its seal on the bag.

Some companies manufacture "dental foods" that act like a toothbrush (e.g. Hill's® Prescription Diet® t/d®, Royal Canin® Dental®, Purina PVD® DH®).

These kibbles are bigger than ordinary kibbles and cover the entire tooth, up to the gums. They thus act in depth. Also, the particular texture of the kibbles allows them to stay in contact with the tooth longer.

These foods all have the VOHC seal on their bags.

Here are 3 things you SHOULD NOT do with dental food, otherwise it will lose its effectiveness:

1. Wet or cut the kibbles. The foods mentioned above are all available in small bite size for small dogs (they are able to eat them!) and in regular size for medium to large dogs.

2. Split your dog's portion of food between dental food and ordinary kibbles. Also, do not give them to your dog as treats only. If you do that, the contact time of the dental kibble will be shorter than it should be.

3. Stop offering dental food after just a few days if your dog refuses to eat them. Sometimes it takes several weeks for the animal to become interested in a new food. You have to be patient!


As for foods, many treats bear the VOHC seal and are effective in helping to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. However, treats are supposed to be used to supplement the basic diet of dogs. They are not supposed to be given in large quantities. Thus, treats alone cannot keep animals' mouths healthy. Instead, they should considered a part of a complete dental care program.

Dental products

Dental products include:

  • Additives to be poured into water and dental gels. They reduce the amount of bacteria in dogs' mouths, which improve their breath;
  • Enzymatic products. They soften the tartar;
  • Chewing strips. They rub on the teeth and remove plaque particles;
  • Flakes to sprinkle on food. They contain purified Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed extract that reduces plaque and tartar build-up.

Teeth scaling

As with humans, dogs need to have their teeth scaled regularly. Why? Here are 3 reasons:

  • It is difficult to thoroughly clean every teeth in an animal's mouth;
  • Even the best home care cannot remove all the tartar and plaque below the gums. The bacteria stuck there multiply and cause infection locally. This infection leads to periodontal disease.
  • Bacteria enter the blood vessels of dogs and spread everywhere. This generalized infection reduces their life expectancy. For example, there is evidence in humans that people with the dental disease are more likely to abort and develop heart and kidney diseases.

It is important to have your pet's teeth scaled before periodontal disease appears because the damages to the diseased teeth are permanent. By scaling the animal's teeth while they are still healthy, we prevent him from feeling pain, from losing his teeth, and from getting weak because of the pain and infection.

To summarize

Like humans, dogs need to have their teeth taken care of. Dental care at home need to be done on a daily basis, but they are not a substitute for regular scalings.

Conversely, scaling does not replace home care either. In fact, scaling cleans the teeth deeply, but they do not prevent the plaque and tartar from accumulating again immediately afterwards.

Do you want us to evaluate your pet's mouth health? Make an appointment at one of our establishments.