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Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a variety of dental problems, ranging from periodontal and gum disease to tooth decay. To try and avoid these issues, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends creating a good dental hygiene routine that includes brushing your dog’s teeth several times a week using dog-safe toothpaste and a toothbrush along with scheduling regular dental cleanings at their vet. Your dog’s diet can also play a major role in maintaining your dog’s teeth and gum health: Several dog foods and kibbles are specially formulated to reduce the mineralization of plaque and tartar on their teeth, and dental chews — a type of dog treat — usually have a gentle abrasive effect to physically reduce buildup on their teeth.
We spoke to veterinarians about the benefits of dental chews, how often to give them to your dog and what to consider when purchasing them. In line with our experts’ guidance, we also listed several dental chews to consider that feature the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s Registered Seal, which means they’re accepted at-home dental care products for dogs.
Our top picks
What are dental treats and chews for dogs?
The best way to maintain your dog’s dental hygiene and keep their gums and teeth free of plaque is by scheduling regular teeth cleanings at the vet and brushing their teeth daily with a dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush combo. Dental chews can also help: They work to mechanically scrape off odor-causing bacteria and leftover food from their teeth. Some dental chews include a chemical anti-plaque agent like delmopinol that creates a protective barrier on the teeth.
“Dental treats can help remove some plaque buildup [on their teeth] and can be a valuable addition to your at-home oral health care for your dog,” said Dr. JoAnn Morrison, director of veterinary science at Banfield Animal Hospital. However, our experts said these treats shouldn’t replace the aforementioned teeth-cleaning methods, nor should you give them to pups less than six months old since their adult teeth haven’t come in yet.
All of the veterinarians we spoke to suggested looking for a registered certification mark from the Veterinary Oral Health Council — an entity of the American Veterinary Dental College — which indicates that the dental treat has met pre-set standards that prove it can reduce calculus (tartar) and plaque development on your dog’s teeth by 15-20%. The VOHC — a group of veterinary dentists and dental scientists — review data from manufacturers’ research trials and give the VOHC Seal to products that they determine can help reduce the severity of periodontal disease in dogs and cats with regular use, the American Veterinary Dental College says.
How we picked the best dental chews for dogs
Veterinarians told us dental chews can be great at keeping your dog’s teeth healthy and clean when used in conjunction with regular teeth cleaning. When shopping for dental chews, our experts recommended considering the following factors:
- VOHC Registered Seal: This means they appear on the council’s list of accepted products with the certified mark.
- Size: Make sure the dental chews and treats are sized appropriately for your dog since they can be a choking hazard.
- Nutritional information on the packaging: This allows you to keep track of your dog’s daily calorie intake and adjust their daily food portions accordingly to avoid going over the recommended amount.
The best dental chews for dogs
Below, we highlighted VOHC-approved dental chews for dogs that are in line with our experts’ guidance. Keep in mind, each of the dog dental treats we listed below are not suitable for dogs under six months old, according to the veterinarians we consulted.
Greenies are a popular dental treat that can help maintain gum health as well as help freshen your pup’s breath, according to the brand. I’ve fed the Teeny Greenies to my dog Bella — a 4-year-old Havachon who weighs 15 pounds — since she was a few months old, and she’s never had any issues with her teeth (she also loves the taste of them). These come in the shape of a toothbrush and they’re made with easy-to-digest ingredients, vitamins and minerals like glycerin and wheat flour, Greenies says. Greenies’ Regular size comes in multiple counts ranging from three treats to 72 treats in a box.
VOHC-approved function: Reduce plaque and tartar | Size: Teenie (5 pounds to 15 pounds), Petite (15 pounds to 25 pounds), Regular (25 pounds to 50 pounds) and Large (50 pounds to 100 pounds) | Calories per chew: 26 kcal for Teenie, 56 kcal for Petite, 91 kcal for Regular and 147 kcal for Large
These dental sticks from Pedigree can reduce tartar buildup, clean teeth and freshen breath through regular daily or weekly use — the stick has a patented X-shape that forms ridges to help clean teeth down to the gumline and scrape away plaque, Pedigree says. The chews also include teeth-cleaning ingredients like sodium tripolyphosphate, as well as essential vitamins and minerals like folic acid and vitamin B12, the brand says. These are available in 10-, 25- and 45-count packages and come in multiple flavors, including mint, chicken and beef.
VOHC-approved function: Reduces plaque and tartar | Size: Mini (7 pounds to 22 pounds), small/medium (22 pounds to 40 pounds) and large (over 40 pounds) | Calories per chew: 21 kcal for mini, 53 kcal for small/medium and 76 kcal for large
These chews from Milk-Bone can cut down on tartar and fight bad breath using a patented design with bristle-like nubs and ridges that are made to twist as your dog chews, according to the brand. Made to taste like savory chicken, the chews provide 12 essential vitamins and minerals, including ferrous sulfate, calcium iodate and vitamin E, the brand says. You can get these chews in a 9-, 25- or 36-count bag.
VOHC-approved function: Reduces tartar | Size: Mini (for dogs 5 pounds to 24 pounds), small/medium (25 pounds to 49 pounds) and large (over 50 pounds) | Calories per chew: 30 kcal for mini, 65 kcal for small/medium and 100 kcal for large
Tartar Shield says its Soft Rawhide Chews are clinically proven to reduce bacteria and tartar build-up by more than 50% with ingredients like sodium tripolyphosphate that help prevent tartar formation. Unlike conventional rawhide — which can be a choking hazard for many dogs, experts told us in our guide to dog toys — these chews are made so your dog can bite into them, chew them and digest them safely since the rawhide is minced, according to the brand. These chews offer a savory bacon flavor and come with 8 to 30 treats in each bag.
VOHC-approved function: Reduce tartar | Size: Small (under 35 pounds), large (35 pounds to 75 pounds) and extra-large (over 70 pounds) | Calories per chew: 51 kcal for small, 78 kcal for large and 240 kcal for extra-large
Designed to be given once a day, the OraVet Hygiene Dental Chews are formulated with delmopinol, a dog-safe ingredient also used in oral rinses for humans that helps reduce gingivitis formation on the teeth and serves as a protective agent to prevent future buildup, according to OraVet. The chews are available in 14-count and 30-count bags.
VOHC-approved function: Reduces tartar | Size: Extra-small (3.5 pounds to 9 pounds), small (10 pounds to 24 pounds), medium (25 pounds to 50 pounds) and large (over 50 pounds) | Calories per chew: 26.8 kcal for extra-small, 47.7 kcal for small, 80.5 kcal for medium and 128.2 kcal for large
These chews from Virbac are plant-based and gluten-free, and they’re easily digestible for dogs with food sensitivities, according to the brand. They have a unique Z-shape that allows the treat to scrape away tartar in different parts of your dog’s mouth, Virbac says. These chews are available in 30-treat and 60-treat bags.
VOHC-approved function: Reduces plaque and tartar | Size: Extra-small (under 11 pounds), small (11 pounds to 22 pounds), medium (22 pounds to 66 pounds) and large (over 66 pounds) | Calories per chew: 24 kcal for small, 48 kcal for small and medium, and 105 kcal for large
Based on the manufacturer’s trials, the Purina DentaLife Chews are proven to reduce tartar build-up by an average of 57%, according to the brand. The chews offer eight distinct ridges that can help teeth through mechanical scrubbing, while the long stick design can help reach teeth in the back of their mouth, Purina says. The brand offers these chews in three sizes and they come in multiple counts ranging from 10 treats to 94 treats.
VOHC-approved function: Reduces tartar | Size: Mini (5 pounds to 25 pounds), small/medium (20 pounds to 40 pounds) and large (over 40 pounds) | Calories per chew: 25 kcal for mini, 63 kcal for small/medium and 100 kcal for large
Are dental chews worth it?
Dental chews can help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation as long as they’re used alongside other teeth-cleaning methods. You should also consider what type of chewer your dog is to see if they’d actually benefit from regular dental treats or if that’ll just be empty added calories. Dr. Megan Shepherd, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and owner of Veterinary Clinical Nutrition, PLLC, said her older hound is “extremely food-motivated” and will inhale rather than chew a dental treat, making it less effective.
If you do notice these treats aren’t being fully chewed, it’s likely better to schedule annual professional dental cleanings, especially for smaller dogs who are more prone to dental problems, according to Dr. Joe Wakshlag, professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine and rehabilitation at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.
Shepherd noted that dog owners should also be sure to track the dental treat calories and adjust food portions accordingly — treats shouldn’t exceed more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake, experts explained in our guide to dog treats. If your dog is getting several treats throughout the day, it’s probably best to give them two to three dental chews a week rather than giving them out daily, Wakshlag said. And just like their regular treats, “always consider the size of your dog and avoid chews or sticks that are too small for the breed to avoid choking hazards,” said Caylee Freels, a licensed veterinary technician at VCA White Lake Animal Hospital.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. JoAnn Morrison is a board-certified veterinarian and the director of veterinary science at Banfield Animal Hospital.
- Dr. Megan Shepherd is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and owner of Veterinary Clinical Nutrition, PLLC.
- Dr. Joe Wakshlag is a board-certified veterinarian and professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine and rehabilitation at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Caylee Freels is a licensed veterinary technician at VCA White Lake Animal Hospital.
Why trust Select?
Mili Godio is an editor at Select who covers a variety of pet topics, including dog food, beds, treats, toys and more. For this article, Godio spoke to four veterinarians and veterinary technicians about the benefits and limitations of dog dental chews and whether they’re worth it for your pet. She also compiled their recommendations for the best dental chews to consider and researched dozens of options on the market based on the experts’ guidance.