7 best dog dental chews, according to experts

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.

SKIP AHEAD The best dental chews for dogs | Are dental chews worth it?

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.

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. But 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 noted 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 have yet to come in.

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.

The best dental chews for dogs in 2022

In line with our experts’ guidance, all of the following dental chews and treats for dogs are available in various sizes, offer nutritional information on their packaging to keep track of daily calorie intake and have the VHOC Registered Seal, meaning they appear on the council’s list of accepted products with the certified mark. Each of the dog dental treats listed below are not suitable for dogs under six months old, according to our experts.

Greenies Regular Dog Dental Treats

  • 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

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.

Pedigree Dentastix

  • 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 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.

Milk-Bone Original Brushing Chews

  • 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

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.

Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews

  • VOHC-approved function: Reduces 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

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 experts previously told us can be a choking hazard for many dogs — 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.

OraVet Hygiene Dental Chews

  • 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

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- and 30-count bags.

Virbac CET Veggiedent FR3SH Tartar Control Chews

  • 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

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. Available in 30-treat and 60-treat bags.

Purina DentaLife Chews

  • 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

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.

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, Dr. Joe Wakshlag, professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine and rehabilitation at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, said it’s likely better to schedule annual professional dental cleanings, especially for smaller dogs who are more prone to dental problems.

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.

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