Why do you need the best dog toothpaste for your dog? While working as a veterinary assistant, it was common for me to discuss teeth brushing with owners. Often, people would admit that they heard it was beneficial, but they felt overwhelmed by all the dog toothpaste on the market, not to mention the brushing itself.
We’ve examined different options for the best dog toothpaste and cleaning aids. We narrowed it down to 12. You’ll find detailed reviews on each below, as well as the pros and cons. If you know what you need, here are the quick links to products:
- CET Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste by Virbac
- Petsmile Dog Toothpaste by SuperSmile
- Enzadent Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste by Vetoquinol
- Fresh Breath Clean Teeth Oral Gel by TropiClean
- Healthymouth Water Additive by pet::ESSENTIAL
- Healthymouth Topical Gel by pet::Essential
- PlaqueOff Powder by ProDen
- Greenies Dental Treats
- C.E.T. VeggieDent Chews, FR3SH, Regular, 30 Chews
- OraVet Dental Hygiene Chews
- Purina DentaLife Daily Oral Care
- Whimzees Natural Grain Free Dental Dog Treats, Brushzees
We all want to give the best care to our dogs, but it is not always clear what products to use or what to do. However, a good dental routine is critical to your dog’s health. Did you know that teeth brushing is just as important for dogs as it is for humans?
Thankfully, finding safe and effective dog toothpaste is easy.
In this article, we will discuss how and why you need to brush your dog’s teeth, how to choose the best dog toothpaste, and how to introduce them to your daily routine.
Why should you brush your dog’s teeth?
The health of your dog’s teeth and gums has a major influence on the other systems in their body. Periodontal disease, or infection and inflammation of the tissues around the teeth, is the source of most dental problems, and if left untreated can affect your dog’s kidneys, liver, or heart (source).
Common Dental Problems
Owners should be on the lookout for several common dental problems among dogs. Vets estimate that over 80% of dogs over three years of age have dental disease. Watch for:
Plaque: This is the sticky substance that builds up on your dog’s teeth and eventually becomes tartar. Tartar is the hard, yellow, or brown shell visible on the teeth. Plaque and tartar can cause gum inflammation, recession, and infection (source).
Fractures: Fractures are the cracking of the enamel of the tooth. This can occur from chewing on objects that are too hard (like bones or metal fencing) or from trauma to the mouth. Fractures are often painful and can expose the sensitive “pulp” of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. Sometimes, fractures occur below the gumline and are only discovered through x-rays during a dental procedure with a veterinarian.
Infections: Bacteria builds up in an unclean mouth and can lead to infection around the roots of the teeth. If a tooth in the upper jaw becomes infected, it can damage the eye if left untreated.
Resorptions: These occur when a dog has periodontal disease and the infection travels to the root of the tooth and causes bone loss. Like fractures, resorptions are often found by taking x-rays.
So, what should you do to prevent these problems from happening? The best way to prevent your dog from developing issues is to take them to the veterinarian every year for a dental check-up and cleaning and brush their teeth at home.
If you suspect or know that your dog has one of the listed problems, it is critical to take them to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Many times, these issues are painful and can lead to further problems for your companion.
Is there a way to remove tartar from your dog’s teeth at home?
Unfortunately, the only way to remove tartar is by getting your dog’s teeth cleaned professionally by a veterinarian. The best thing to do at home is prevent the buildup of plaque that leads to tartar by brushing your dog’s teeth every day.
The Best Dog Toothpaste
As we mentioned earlier, toothpaste is a significant addition to your dog’s daily dental routine. But what exactly does it do, and how does it work?
DIY dog toothpaste
Homemade toothpaste for dogs is made with ingredients like baking soda and coconut oil resulting in natural dog toothpaste.
The Benefits of Using Dog Toothpaste
Dog toothpaste has been clinically shown to help control bacterial growth in the mouth. On its own, it’s better than nothing, but it is not as effective as actually brushing the teeth. So, toothpaste is best used as an addition to brushing, not as a replacement.
In one study, researchers compared the effects of only brushing, only toothpaste, and no treatment on plaque buildup in dogs over eight weeks. Toothpaste on its own significantly reduced the amount of plaque and bacteria on the dogs’ teeth compared to no treatment. This shows that toothpaste can help maximize the effectiveness of a daily brushing routine.
Clinically Proven Dog Toothpaste
Most cautious dog owners look for vet-recommended dog toothpaste. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of approved dental health products that have met strict standards of effectiveness during clinical trials. Manufacturers voluntarily submit their trial protocol, trial results, and dental product for approval. Pet toothpaste and other dental products do not need to seek approval from this organization.
As of right now, the only toothpaste with a seal of approval by the VOHC is Petsmile by the company SuperSmile. Petsmile is an enzymatic paste that works by dissolving the protein film on your pet’s teeth to prevent food and bacteria from sticking to it and forming plaque. It comes in a variety of meat flavors that your dog will enjoy. Another reason to love this product? Even if you cannot brush your dog’s teeth, it is still advertised for and effective at reducing plaque if applied every day.
Whatever type of dog food you are using, teeth still need cleaning.
4.5 stars with close to 9000 reviews. Another clinically proven option is Virbac CET Enzymatic Toothpaste. This paste comes in a variety of flavors, including poultry and vanilla-mint. CET works as an antibacterial when the enzyme it contains mixes with oxygen and the sugars in your dog’s mouth and flights the formation of plaque.
CET Enzymatic Toothpaste uses a dual enzyme system that is formulated to be safe and effective for your pet and appealing in smell and flavor while inhibiting the formation of plaque. Here are the features that make it one of the best toothpaste for dogs.
- The enzymes in the toothpaste are antibacterial and help to remove plaque.
- Virbac is a long-standing and reputable brand that offers a variety of other animal care products.
- CET comes in a variety of flavors, including poultry, vanilla-mint, beef, malt, and seafood.
- It is a little bit more affordable than Petsmile toothpaste.
- Consumers have experienced inconsistent quality and freshness when buying from online stores like Amazon and Chewy.
- Some dogs may get an upset stomach or vomit after using CET toothpaste.
4.4 stars with 330+ reviews. Petsmile uses their patented formula, Calprox, which contains enzymes to remove plaque and stains and eliminate bad breath. It is the first and only VOHC-approved dog toothpaste and contains no parabens, silica, or sulfates.
- Petsmile is at the time of this writing the only VOHC-approved toothpaste on the market.
- It works to reduce plaque, even if you cannot brush your dog’s teeth if applied daily.
- It comes in either London broil or rotisserie chicken flavor.
- Petsmile is more expensive than other available pet toothpaste.
- Some reviews state that the paste is runny and messy when it comes out of the tube.
- Some dogs may get an upset stomach or vomit after using the toothpaste.
These two products are great options with science to back them up, but if neither of these appeal to you and your dog, here are some other options that are popular:
4.6 stars with 560+ reviews. Enzadent uses a three-enzyme formula to kill bacteria and remove plaque and food from teeth. It is formulated to be appetizing to even picky pets and fights against bad breath.
- Vetiquinol is a reputable brand that offers many products for veterinary hospitals and pet owners.
- Enzadent is less expensive than Petsmile and CET.
- Enzadent only comes in poultry flavor, so picky dogs may not like the taste.
- Some dogs may get an upset stomach or vomit after using Enzadent.
4.3 stars with 3,000+ reviews. Fresh Breath Clean Teeth oral gel is unique from other pet toothpaste. The company boasts that it can remove plaque from teeth even without brushing (even though brushing is still recommended). Your dog needs only a few drops once a day to reap the benefits of reduced plaque and fresher breath.
- TropiClean claims that the oral gel is effective at reducing plaque without brushing when used daily.
- Fresh Breath comes in a variety of flavors, including peanut butter, berry, vanilla mint, and original.
- It is less expensive than Petsmile.
- Fresh Breath oral gel may cause an upset stomach for some dogs.
- It is more expensive than Enzadent or C.E.T. dog toothpaste.
It is best to buy the listed products directly from the parent company, a veterinarian, or a brick and mortar pet store instead of online retailers in order to assure that they are of the best quality. Some people have received pastes that have gone bad or are discolored when ordering from these sites.
It is always best to discuss a new product with your veterinarian before administering it to your dog, and they can answer your questions about other kinds of toothpaste and ingredients.
Alternatives to Dog Toothpaste
Typically, toothpaste will make your dog more interested or accepting of brushing since it can taste yummy. However, some dogs may not particularly enjoy the taste of toothpaste. If this is the case, brushing without dog toothpaste is fine. The VOHC product list for dogs has an oral gel, water additive, and food supplement that can be added to your daily routine.
Healthymouth water additive is an easy way to add a step of dental care into your pet’s daily routine. Healthymouth can be added directly to drinking water and is formulated to be palatable to your dog.
- Healthymouth is easy to administer since you simply add it to your dog’s drinking water.
- It reduces plaque even without daily brushing.
- The cost for Healthymouth water additive is between 15-27 cents per pet per day.
- This product has to be bought from the company website or a veterinarian, it is not available on sites like Amazon and Chewy.
- It has a high upfront cost, starting at $67.00 for an 8 oz. container.
The Healthymouth topical gel is another simple way to incorporate more dental care into your dog’s routine. Applied the gel directly to the teeth with a cotton swab once a day (at night after the last meal) and reduces bacteria and plaque throughout the mouth. You can use the oral gel on its own or with the water additive for maximum protection.
- The gel is easy to apply to the teeth and only needs to be used once a day.
- It has a faint cinnamon scent.
- This product has to be bought from the company website or a veterinarian, it is not available on sites like Amazon and Chewy.
- It has a high upfront cost of $68.00 for a 2 oz. jar, but can last up to three months for small to medium dogs.
4 stars with 6,600+ reviews. PlaqueOff Powder is a great all-natural alternative that works a little differently than other dental care products. Made with a specific type of seaweed, Plaqueoff is meant to be ingested and incorporated into your pet’s saliva so that it can break down the plaque on their teeth.
- PlaqueOff is added to wet or dry food for easy administration.
- You can buy PlaqueOff from many online retailers, including Walmart.
- It is affordable, starting at $22.00 for a 2.1 oz. supply, which lasts about three months for large dogs and even longer for smaller dogs.
- This product should not be used for pets with thyroid problems (due to the iodine content) unless directed by your veterinarian.
- PlaqueOff may cause a stomach upset for some dogs.
Keep Your Dog Safe
Is it safe to use human toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth?
- Do not use human toothpaste on your dog. Why is it bad for dogs? It contains multiple ingredients that are toxic, such as:
Xylitol: This is an artificial sweetener found in many human foods that can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, seizures, and liver damage in dogs.
Fluoride: This ingredient that is found in many human toothpastes can cause an upset stomach in dogs or even seizures at high amounts. Specially formulated pet toothpaste contains a safe amount or none at all.
Sulfates: Sodium lauryl sulfate is a common ingredient in products for humans, such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste, that is responsible for the production of foam. This ingredient may cause an upset stomach.
Also, human toothpaste is not supposed to be swallowed. Toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs is expected to be consumed and poses no risk of poisoning.
Besides toothpaste, is there a way to freshen your dog’s breath? Yes and no.
Bad breath is a common symptom of dental disease. If your dog has something worse than typical “doggy breath,” they may need to have a visit with the veterinarian. Their breath will not get any better until the root of the problem is fixed.
If your dog has a healthy mouth and you just want to mask the typical breath smell, then dental chews are a great way to freshen it, as well as assist in fighting plaque buildup. The VOHC has 28 approved chews that can be found online, in pet stores, or at a veterinary hospital.
Here’s a list of some of the top-rated, VOHC-approved chews:
4.8 stars with 40,000+ reviews. Greenies make dental easy by delivering a tasty treat that fights plaque and freshens breath. Many dogs love the flavor and texture of these bone and brush-shaped chews. They also have added vitamins and minerals and are formulated for easy digestion.
- Greenies come in multiple flavors, including original, mint, and blueberry.
- Greenies make them with easily digestible ingredients and come in various sizes.
- Greenies are relatively expensive for large-sized dogs at over $1.00 per treat.
- They may be messy and leave a green spot where your dog was chewing on them.
- Some dogs may get an upset stomach or vomiting after consuming a Greenie.
4.5 stars with 1,600+ reviews. Made by the same company as C.E.T. Enzymatic toothpaste, C.E.T. VEGGIEDENT FR3SH chews work to reduce plaque and freshen breath, and have an added probiotic to help aid overall digestion. They are also formulated to taste great to your dog.
- VEGGIEDENT FR3SH chews come in a variety of sizes.
- The company offers another VOHC-approved VEGGIEDENT chew called Zen, which is made with L-theanine to help reduce stress.
- The chews are less expensive compared to other brands of dental chews. The cost per chew for large dogs is about $0.85.
- VEGGIEDENT chews may cause stomach upset or vomiting for some dogs.
4.6 stars with 5,000+ reviews. OraVet dental hygiene chews are the only dog dental chew to contain an ingredient called delmopinol, which forms a protective barrier on the teeth to prevent the future formation of plaque. These chews work to clean the teeth, form a barrier, and freshen breath all at once.
- OraVet dental chews come in a variety of sizes.
- They have a pleasant mint smell but also a great flavor that dogs enjoy.
- These chews may cause an upset stomach or diarrhea for some dogs.
They are more expensive than the previously listed dental chews, with the chews for large dogs costing over $1.50 each.
4.7 stars with 3,200+ reviews. DentaLife Daily Oral Care chews offer an appealing texture to dogs that are both chewy and porous, and contacts hard-to-reach teeth surfaces. They have a yummy chicken flavor that dogs love.
- DentaLife Daily Oral Care chews are more affordable than other chews, costing about $0.50 per chew for a large dog.
- They come in three different sizes.
- DentaLife has another chew, called Advanced Clean, that was more recently approved by the VOHC and lasts longer than the Daily Oral Care chews.
- These chews may cause an upset stomach or vomiting for some dogs.
4.6 stars with 2,400+ reviews. The cute design of the Whimzees Burshzees daily dental chews aren’t just for looks, they’re designed to clean better and last longer than other leading brands. Whimzees them to be food sensitivity-friendly and have no artificial colors or flavors.
- Brushzees could be a good chew for dogs sensitive to some foods.
- Users found the shape of the chew to last longer and be more effective at reducing plaque than other kinds of dental chews in an independent study (unrelated to VOHC approval).
- These chews are the most expensive on this list for the large size at about $1.80 pew chew.
- Brushzees may cause an upset stomach or vomiting for some dogs.
There is little available info on the study that was conducted, and it focused on chew shape (not Brushzees specifically).
Brushing your dog’s teeth
You may be alarmed by the mention of stomach upsets, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Every individual dog is different, and some have a more sensitive stomach than others. Also, introducing new dog foods and treats too quickly can sometimes trigger stomach problems. If your dog experiences nausea or diarrhea after eating something new, call your veterinarian.
There is also a possibility of choking any time you give your dog an edible chew toy, so it is important to supervise them until they finish them. If they do not chew the treat thoroughly or try to swallow large pieces, do not continue to offer that type of treat. Be sure to buy and give the appropriate chew size for your dog.
Each one of the chews listed has been proven to help reduce plaque buildup when given as directed. The majority of the reviews and VOHC approval are a testament to the benefits that dental chews can provide for your dog. As a bonus, a lot of dogs love their dental chews and see them as a treat, so it is an easy way to sneak in some extra dental care with minimal effort.
Introducing A Routine
Now that we’ve gone over why teeth brushing is necessary and the benefits of the best dog toothpaste and dental chews, let’s talk about introducing a routine to your dog.
If your dog is not a puppy, it may take some time and patience to get them used to having a brush and paste in their mouth. Two of the most common problems you may encounter are resistance to brushing and disliking the taste of toothpaste.
Resistance to the Toothbrush
The key to introducing your dog to a toothbrush is to do it slowly. Your dog may not enjoy the process of teeth brushing for multiple reasons. Some dogs dislike the feeling of the bristles or dislike their mouth being touched.
These two problems are best solved by making the experience as positive as possible. Begin with simply touching your dog’s chin, then once they are comfortable with that, start to lift their lip. Eventually, touch their teeth with your finger, then move on to a toothbrush. After they are comfortable with this, try to brush.
Be sure to feed treats throughout the process and remain patient. It could take days, weeks, or even months. If it feels too difficult to train them on your own, hire a professional trainer to assist you. Do not force your dog or pin them down to brush their teeth as this will only make them more fearful of the process.
Now You Are Ready to Start Using Toothpaste for Your Dog
When regularly used, toothpaste can help maximize the health benefits of your dog’s dental care routine. Along with regular dental cleanings with your veterinarian, brushing your dog’s teeth and using toothpaste can help prevent periodontal disease and more serious issues from developing. Incorporating these products into your daily routine will help your dog to stay healthy and happy.