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Do dental chews really work for dogs?

Our Greensboro veterinarians explain how to find out if a dog dental chew is worth purchasing, which factors to consider, and the safety tips every dog owner should keep in mind. 


Why are dog dental chews popular?

As pup parents, we know that good oral health is critical to our dogs’ long-term health, and we’re always looking for new tips to save time. Though tooth brushing is one of the most effective methods to keep our furry friends from getting periodontal disease (or an ugly buildup of plaque, tartar and inflamed gums), they don’t usually appreciate our efforts to keep their mouths healthy.

That’s why dog dental chews, along with treats and sticks, have been growing in popularity in recent years. There are a lot of choices out there for products that purport to help keep your dog’s teeth clean. But before you get overwhelmed, let’s review some of these oral healthcare products to identify whether they are actually worth the cost.

Will dog dental chews work for my pet?

There’s not a cut-and-dry answer as to whether dental chews work. They may help keep your pooch’s teeth clean and the dry kibble can be satisfying for your dog to crunch in her mouth - and taste yummy. Though chews that are properly designed can potentially reduce tartar and plaque buildup, they’re not a substitute for regular tooth brushing and professional dental cleanings - just an additional tool.

Feel free to use dental chews to supplement your dog’s oral care routine - somewhat like we sometimes chew sugar-free gum to keep our breath fresh, but we wouldn’t use this in place of regularly brushing our teeth or visiting the dentist.

Consider these factors before buying dog dental chews which claim they support dental health:

  • Seek out long-lasting chew products such as nylon, rawhide, knucklebone or rubber chew toys (watch these closely and toss them if your dog gnaws it down so much that it becomes a choking hazard).
  • Make sure any treats or chews your provide are not too hard, as they can damage your dog’s teeth. Hooves, antlers and bones are likely to cause problems.
  • Find out how many calories are in your pup’s dental chews - you don’t want to deal with a weight problem while trying to reduce dental issues.
  • Be skeptical of any claims that some products support dental health. Check the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of product recommendations for buys that are worth your money.
  • Remember to book your pet’s routine oral exam and dental cleanings at your vet’s office.

How long should my dog spend chewing?

Give your dog about 30 minutes to get his chew on every day, to give them the maximum benefit out of their dental chews.

A Note About Dog Breeds, Teeth and Oral Health Problems

If you’ve got a small breed dog, or your canine friend has a jaw that’s stacked or crowded with teeth, watch out - plaque and tartar are more likely to grow in hiding spots, no matter how much effort is put into chewing.

Good old toothbrush bristles can get under the gum line and be used to brush or scrape away bacteria that may cause periodontal disease.

Remember that your dog’s immune system, age, history and breed can affect his health and contribute to whether he develops dental issues. This is why a qualified vet needs to see your pooch for routine health checkups.

The Bottom Line

While some dental chews are effective for dogs, these aren’t a replacement for regular toothbrushing or professional dental care routines. These elements of a great oral health care routine should stay on your dog’s calendar, and their teeth will remain in good condition.

Does your pet need a dental exam? Our veterinarians are experienced in performing regular dental exams and treatments. Book an appointment today.

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