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Do Dental Treats Really Work?

Keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy isn’t the easiest. Between constantly finding things in their mouths (where did you get a Pop-Tart?) and their aversion to toothbrushing, the task can be a pain in more ways than one. But oral hygiene is an essential step that goes beyond grooming; it’s integral to their overall health.

Many dog owners turn to dental treats and chews for their teeth and gum-cleaning properties. Like parents sneaking vegetables into their kids’ unhealthy but beloved foods, if you’re going to treat your dog, why not go with something that’s also good for them? Dental treats come in a variety of dog-pleasing flavors — duck liver palate cleanser, anyone? — which can help turn otherwise dreaded care into a welcome snack.

SEE ALSO: Dogs & Dental Disease

Some of these boasted benefits may leave you questioning if they’re just too good to be true. (Looking at you, cauliflower pizza crust.) Let’s take a closer look at dental treats to help you decide if they’re a good choice for you and your pup.


Not all dental treats are created equal. Many showcase ingredients that clean teeth, freshen breath, and provide valuable vitamins and nutrients. Some will even claim to replace the need of regular brushing and cleanings. As tempting as that sounds, the best way to protect your dog from periodontal disease and harmful oral bacteria is daily toothbrushing, coupled with professional exams.

This doesn’t mean that dental chews don’t work. While they can be a beneficial and welcome addition to your pup’s routine, just remember: they’re not a complete substitute for more dedicated care.

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Blind Spots

Leave it to day-old popcorn wedged in your own teeth to remind you just how many nooks there are in your mouth. As with humans, there are some places in your dog’s mouth that seem to attract and trap whatever ends up in their mouths. This can sometimes include fragments of dental chews. These treats are designed to be a little tougher than your standard Scooby snack, so if they become lodged in a hard to reach corner of your pup’s gumline, it may take some time to break down or unstick without manual extraction. Regular toothbrushing will help you monitor and correct any stowaway food before it becomes an issue.

What to Buy

Dental treats can take up an entire pet store aisle (and at least several pages of a Google search). If you’re overwhelmed by claims and flavors, a great way to narrow down the selection is to look for chews bearing a seal of approval from Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). The VOHC is an organization that evaluates pet products for their efficacy in reducing plaque and tartar. You can find a current list of VOHC-accepted dog products here.

It’s important to remember that like all treats, dental chews are still an indulgence, even if they offer benefits. Search for quality ingredients and a low-fat content that won’t interfere with your dog’s meal plan or dietary health.

When to use

As we’ve already mentioned, dental bones are ultimately not an outright replacement for oral care. They’re a great supplement between regular toothbrushing and professional cleanings, but not an adequate substitute. To keep your dog’s pearly whites in their best shape, don’t brush aside more comprehensive care in their dental routine.

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