Dog Dental Chews: Do They Help Keep Teeth Clean?

Bailey eating a ligament

We’re getting the message about the importance of brushing our dog’s teeth, so we want to know if dog dental chews will help. 

In previous posts we looked at various toothbrushes and toothpastes, now it’s time to talk about dog dental chews.

We already know how plaque can build up on our dog’s teeth, just like it does on our own. We also know how important good oral hygiene is to prevent plaque from turning into tartar, causing inflamed gums, infection, periodontal disease and even organ damage.

So since we know all that, what are we going to do to prevent it? Well, hopefully you will have started brushing your dog’s tooth, even though I know how challenging that can be!!

I have a little 10lb dog with the sweetest nature you will ever come across, but go near her with a toothbrush, and her jaws clamp shut like a steel trap!

Where to start?

Always start with a trip to the vet, so he can have a good look in your dog’s mouth. Once you know the condition of your dog’s teeth, then you can plan a course of action.

Will dental chews prevent dental disease?

No, not by themselves, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial.

How do chews help?

The action of gnawing on a dental bone, stick, or even a toy helps scrape the teeth. For it to be effective, your dog will have to do it for at least a few minutes. The benefit of a toy over an actual dog dental chewsfood product is the lack of calories, and no ingredients that might be forbidden in your dog’s diet.

Many vets recommend buying treats with the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of approval. That means studies were conducted to prove the efficacy of these products, and their safety.

I was very surprised to notice their seal on some products that don’t have the best quality ingredients. I was particularly shocked at their approval of a very popular dental chew that has so many ingredients, I’m not exaggerating when I say I stopped counting at 25. That can’t be necessary!

Of course the ones you choose are up to you, but I recommend you get your vet’s input, just to be sure the ingredients are safe for your dog. 

Are they worth it then?

If it’s the only thing being offered in the way of dental care, than it is certainly better than doing nothing. Ideally, a multipronged approach has the best chance of succeeding. Nothing wrong with some dental chews or chew toys, as long as it’s part of a bigger plan, like regular brushing and dental checks by your vet.

In addition to helping clean their teeth, there is the added benefit of giving your dog something to do to stave off boredom.

Things to consider before making a purchase

nutritional value

If your senior dog has some health issues, or is on condition specific food, speak to your vet about the ingredients of the products you’re thinking of buying, to ensure they are safe.


They may be considered dental chews and not treats, but they still contain calories. Perhaps instead of giving one daily, alternate with a chew toy. You don’t want your dog gaining weight, as that will lead to a whole host of other complications you want to avoid. Check out the low calorie options!


Always supervise your dog when giving treats he’ll be chewing on. Small pieces can be a choking hazard, so when it’s near the end, take it away and throw it out. Why take the risk?


When buying chews, consider the size of your dog and the size of the chew. If your dog finishes it in a couple of bites, he has not gotten any benefit from it. The benefit is in the gnawing away at it.

place of origin

Because of pet product recalls, there is a genuine concern about where pet products are made. What are you comfortable with?

product safety

Be aware of cheap products, unsafe toys, sharp bones and the like when making your selection.

Let’s move on…

I have put together a portfolio of various treats for you to consider. Check them out, see what you think, and remember to confirm the safety of the ingredients with your vet.

Dog dental chews - conclusion

After reading this post, what do you think of dog dental chews as part of your dog's oral care plan? 



  1. Ilyssa

    Thank you for the informative article. I always wonder about these things. I have cats and am debating adding a dog to the family. This is the kind of information I like to have on hand as I make the decision and should we have a dog, knowing how to best proceed and care for it.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hello Ilyssa, you’re very welcome. Cats need dental care as wells… If you are thinking of getting a dog, I’m happy to offer as much advice as I can. I am a dog trainer, and don’t only deal with senior dogs.

  2. john

    I had a 14 year old dog that did not have a lot of tarter build up. I think one of the ways that we handled it was with dental chews. She would not look at some of them, she was very picky. I cannot remember what brand we used, it was recommended by the Vet as you stated.
    We did brush her teeth on a regular basis, we used tooth paste that was flavored.
    I think dental health let her live for her 14 years.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi John, thanks for sharing! I don’t often hear of someone taking such good care of their dog’s teeth – it tends to be an issue people don’t even realise is so important. I’m trying to get my new dog into that kind of routine, but he is fussy as well.

  3. Emily

    hi Hindy!
    the recommended products you put together are so cool! Certainly facilitates choosing one, as you included some of different sizes and prices. I have seen many dogs chew on those chews. And they sure go at it!! Some just destroy the thing in not too long 🙂 I think, for me, I would be worried that they would choke. So I would certainly keep a close watch, as you recommended. But if it helps their teeth hygiene and keeps them busy, why not!

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Emily, thanks – I wanted to put together a variety of types, sizes, textures and ingredients, to give people an idea of what kind of treats are out there. I left out the ones that have really bad ingredients, or too many! I’ve given my dogs treats that should last quite some time, and in 5 minutes they’re gone, which does defeat the purpose. You should never leave a dog unattended when eating a bone, or even a cookie. Too dangerous!!

  4. Garen

    Hey Hindy,

    I think this a very common problem that a lot of dog owners have to deal with. It’s just the fact of life that we will all get old and this pertains to our dogs, as well. This seems like a better solution other than brushing your dogs teeth. Does this mean you no longer have to brush their teeth? I was wondering what flavors do these dental chews come in?

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Garen, thank you for the comment and yes, you’re right. It is a very common problem, but for some reason, one that many people aren’t aware is even an issue. Dental chews are not an alternative to brushing, just another layer in helping keep our dog’s teeth clean. Dental chews come in a ton of different flavours and textures. You can get dried slices of sweet potato, chews and sticks made from a mixture of vegetables, raw bones, meats, fish, dental rope to chew on…

  5. Aziz Sattar

    I could have used this info when I had my dog and cat. Unfortunately they are no longer with us. But we do some dog sitting for some friends occasionally and I will be sure to inform them about your article.
    Thank for the info

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Aziz, thank you for your comment, and sorry to hear your furry family members are no longer with you. Of course I would definitely appreciate you sharing this information with people you know who have dogs. The more widely I can spread the word, the better!

  6. Matthew

    Over 25 ingredients for a dental chew? That sure is a lot! It’s good to check the ingredients to to be sure they are beneficial and no potentially harmful ingredients are used. Afterall, you do want the best for you dog’s health.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Matthew, that’s right, I counted them and couldn’t believe it. The fact that it’s a very popular treat is even more disturbing. No edible product should need that many ingredients.


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