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Can dog food clean your dog's teeth?

Research

In short, dry dog biscuits will not help to clean your dog's teeth. The fact is, all dry food, regardless of advertised benefits to the contrary, cause dental disease in dogs.

Fresh food is a lot better when it comes to keeping a dog's teeth clean and will help your pup to maintain a healthier mouth and teeth.

No food can replace good oral hygiene practices for your pup. Just like with people, dog's should brush their teeth regularly too. We also recommend supplementing your dog's diet with a raw meaty bone.

Does Dry Dog Food Clean Teeth?

Dry dog food will not help clean your dog's teeth.

The idea that dry dog food/brown biscuits cleaned a dog's teeth came from the thought that the crunchy food would help to clean plaque from a dog's teeth while they chewed on it. This has been widely disproved. Not to mention, a lot of dog's don't chew their food much, making it pretty pointless!

Claiming kibble can clean teeth because it's crunchy is like saying we could clean the plaque off of our own teeth simply by eating hard, crunchy food. That's no different to being told we don't need to brush our teeth as long as we ate lots of biscuits!

Eating something crunchy can't clean plaque from teeth. Plus, there's nothing to help clean the food particles of food that are left on the teeth and gums.

Not to mention, dry kibble contains a lot of sugars and simple carbohydrates, which lead to a build-up of oral bacteria. Just like our own oral health, failing to clean away the bacteria on your dog's teeth will lead to problems like plaque, tartar, and cavities.

Can Fresh Dog Food Clean Your Dog's Teeth?

Fresh food is better at helping your dog maintain good oral health. Most importantly, fresh food doesn't contain the additives, sugar, and simple carbohydrates that are found in dry food and contribute to bacteria growth.

Instead, fresh food contains more of the good stuff that helps to keep your dog's mouth healthy. For example, fatty acids like omega-3, which help to reduce periodontal inflammation (gum disease.) Antioxidants like vitamin E and C are also important in preventing oxidative stress, which has also been linked to gum disease.

Fresh food might not clean your dog's teeth as well as brushing, but it does help your dog maintain a healthy mouth because it is more digestible, providing far more nutrients for your dog which helps to improve their health and prevent future problems.

Why Do You Need to Clean a Dog's Teeth?

Nothing is as good as regular brushing for keeping your dog's teeth clean.

Poor oral hygiene is as disastrous to dogs as it is to humans. Not only can it cause short term problems like bad breath and plaque build-up, but it can also lead to long term issues like calculus growth and can even contribute to other health problems.

Just like people, dogs only have two sets of teeth. One set of "milk" teeth when they're puppies, and one set of adult teeth. These teeth need to last them for life, so it's vital that they are well looked after. Not to mention, no one likes to be greeted with "dog breath" when they cuddle their furry friend.

To make sure your pup's teeth stay healthy, you should feed them a high-quality, natural diet and make time for regular brushing.

Supplement Some Cleaning With a Tasty Treat

Although it is not as effective as brushing their teeth, giving your pooch a raw, meaty bone can help to clean their teeth.

These are uncooked bones with some meat and fat left on. As the meat is left on, it encourages the dog to chew, and the texture of the bone helps to clean their teeth. Even the bone itself can be digested, and your dog will chew it into smaller pieces and further clean their teeth.

Unlike cooked bones, raw bones are less likely to splinter and cause your dog harm. However, because the bones are raw, there is a small risk they may carry harmful bacteria, so it's best to use them sparingly. Since all bones carry low risks, such as choking, always supervise your pet when feeding them to your dog.

Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.