Healthy Dog Teeth


"Healthy dog teeth require a professional cleaning and yearly exam. Care should include daily brushing supplemented with diet and treats designed for dental health."


Like humans, dogs are born with baby teeth and then lose them as adult teeth grow in. They have 28 baby teeth, which they begin to lose and replace with adult teeth at about four months of age. Most adult dogs have 42 teeth.

The goal for healthy dog teeth is to reduce the accumulation of plaque and calculus. Calculus makes it easier for plaque to attach to the teeth. Bacterial plaque causes gingivitis which in turn leads to periodontal disease.

Tips for Healthy Dog Teeth

Home care for dog teeth is a good way to keep your dog's teeth clean after they have been professionally cleaned by your veterinarian. While home care helps prevent tarter and gingivitis, like human teeth, professional cleanings are still needed for hard to reach places or calculus buildup.

See the following tips to help you maintain healthy dog teeth:

Professional Exams and Cleaning

Have your dog's teeth and mouth examined by the veterinarian yearly. That way any problems can be identified and treated. If too much tartar builds up on the teeth, it may need to be removed under anesthesia.

Many veterinarians now consider it a standard practice to apply a dental sealant such as OraVet Plaque Prevention Gel to canine teeth in order to protect them from plaque.

Brushing and Care of Dog Teeth

It is generally recommended that you brush your dog's teeth every day if possible with a soft toothbrush such as Four Paws Petdental Finger Toothbrush. This is a good time for you to check your dog's teeth and mouth for any problems. See our guide on how to brush your dog's teeth.

Toothpastes made for healthy dog teeth are flavored for the taste preferences of dogs. They contain an abrasive material, such as ground walnut shells, to improve the cleaning action of the brush.

Virbac markets a line of veterinary toothpastes under the brand C.E.T. These pastes contain a "dual enzyme system" consisting of glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase which combine with water (from saliva) and oxygen to form hypothiocyanite (OSCN). This ion is produced naturally in human and canine saliva where it has an antibacterial effect.

A variety of gels and rinses are also available that act as oral antiseptics. The most common active ingredient in these products is Chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is a nonspecific antibacterial agent as well as having some effect on fungus and viruses, although it can increase the rate of calculus formation. Chlorhexidine also causes a brown staining on the teeth when used as a rinse and can cause a decrease in the sense of taste. Chlorhexidine is best used at home for the healing period following professional treatment.

Maxi/Guard is available as a gel and as a rinse. Both contain zinc and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and taurine. Zinc is antibacterial, Vitamin C is important in the production of collagen, which is the main structural protein in gingiva. Taurine reduces halitosis. It has no direct effect on oral bacteria or plaque, but by reducing calculus accumulation, it would make plaque control easier.

Diet and Treats

Dry hard dog food is better for your dog's teeth. Soft foods can leave debris in gum pockets at the base of the tooth, which can lead to infections, so keep soft foods to a minimum. Limit the amount of table scraps and sweets you give to your dog. Hard kibble and hard biscuits also help to remove plaque from your dog's teeth. Hard rubber or nylon chew toys do the same.

Several commercially available dog foods have received recognition by the Veterinary Oral Health Council as having a significant effect on plaque and calculus. These are Prescription Diet Canine t/d Original Bites and Small Bites and Science Diet Oral Care Diet for Dogs.

Iams Dental Defense(tm) and Innovative Veterinary Diets has a Dental Formula(tm). These diets have been coated with HMP to reduce calculus accumulation. The Iams Dental Defense diets have the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance for calculus. Reducing calculus accumulation alone will not prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease, but it may make the job easier.

Edible Chews and Treats - The abrasive action of chewing rawhide does help reduce plaque, calculus and gingivitis. Purina markets rawhide strips under the name Chew-eez.

Virbac markets rawhide strips that contain C.E.T. enzymes. There is no research to support the notion that rawhide with C.E.T. is any more beneficial than rawhide without but the C.E.T. Chews are much more expensive.

Treats are only a part of the plaque control program and should be used in addition to brushing, but never as a replacement.

Dentabone is a compressed tapioca-based treat that has been shown to reduce plaque, calculus, and stain while improving gingival health when given daily. These treats have been known to fracture teeth because they are hard.

Natural Support

Natural Supplements and herbal remedies for healthy dog teeth such as Pet Alive Gums-n-Teeth  can help to prevent gingivitis. If your dog is susceptible to gingivitis and plaque ask your veterinarian or dental veterinarian about these types of supplements. Herbs such as Arthrospira platenis (Spirulina), Equisetum arvense (Horsetail), Silica (6c) and Calc. fluoride (6C) have different properties that strengthen enamel and promote dental health.

Dog Toys

Chew toys can provide some dental benefit if they are soft. Hard toys such as bone and cow hooves can actually cause the teeth to fracture. One good tip is that if you hit the toy into your knee and it does not hurt, then it is probably fine for your dog. Avoid tennis balls as the "fuzz" is abrasive and it could pick up other hard and dangerous elements from the ground.


Canine Teeth
Woolf, Norma Bennett

Dental Home Care: What is Effective and Why
F.A. Hale
Hale Veterinary Clinic
Guelph, Ontario, Canada