The Happy Puppers

Teeth Brushing or Dental Chews?

Dog teeth brushing vs dental chews


Dog teeth brushing or dog dental chews, which is a better option for your pup?

One of the challenges of dog care is to keep their teeth clean. Yes! Like us, they too need oral care. Some dog guardians lean towards dog teeth brushing while in other cases they lean towards dental chews.


Some dog guardians argue that during the old times or in the wild, dogs spent thousands of years without any sort of oral cleaning, teeth brushing or any form of oral care. Yes, this is true, not only dogs but humans also went without any kind of oral hygiene. However, our mouths as well as our dogs bore the brunt of the sheer negligence. Dogs and humans suffered from gum diseases, early tooth loss, severe pain etc. Humans and dogs were also not seen to live as long back then as they do today.


Now, we finally understand the importance of teeth brushing regularly, yearly cleanings as well as proper dental care. Granted, we eat more cavity causing items like candies, chocolates, sweets etc. and we keep our dogs away from these. However, dogs to require regular oral care for similar reasons as humans:

  • To prevent plaque, tartar and finally calculus buildup  
  • To prevent gingivitis and other kinds of periodontitis in dogs
  • perform regular checks for trauma like teeth fracture or broken teeth.
  • To check for orthodontic or developmental issues of the mouth.

Periodontitis in dogs is commonly observed by the time dogs reach three years of age, if they have never been administered oral care before. The tartar which accumulates in the mouth of dogs allows the growth of biofilm which harbors bacteria. These bacteria can eventually break off from the mouth and migrate to the gut.


Once in the gut, these bacteria can cause varied diseases like heart, liver as well as kidney problems. Furthermore, if periodontitis in dogs is not treated, it will lead to very painful teeth loss in advanced stages of the disease.


The unfortunate truth in case of dogs is that they continue to eat even when their teeth hurt. Unlike humans, who would stop eating, dogs never paw their face or stop eating or show any signs or indication that their teeth might be hurting. This makes it harder to figure out whether your dog is suffering from a teeth problem or not.


Dog teeth brushing vs Dental chews, which is better?

Why is dog teeth brushing important?

Teeth brushing is an imperative part of the dog care and grooming process. The scrappy tongue of dogs can remove tartar from the inner regions of the teeth. However, they cannot use their tongue to clean the outer regions of the teeth.


Teeth brushing helps dog guardians clean the outer regions of the dog’s teeth. A toothbrush can reach the corners of your dog’s mouth which cannot be cleaned by any other means unless you take your dog to the veterinarian. Along with cleaning the teeth, it also allows you to check your dog’s teeth and gum health.


How many times should you brush your dog’s teeth?

Plaque can accumulate within a few hours of eating. This plaque tends to take the more permanent form, ‘the tartar’ within a period of 24 hours if the teeth is not properly cleaned. According to experts, the dog teeth brushing must be done at least twice every day. Once your dog gets into the habit, he or she will begin to expect the process of teeth brushing and even enjoy it. For those dog guardians who cannot manage to get their dog’s teeth brushed every day, they may opt for brushing three times a week. Brushing must never be done less than thrice a week. This would make sure there is no tartar accumulation and also remove the plaque which gets deposited on the dog’s teeth.


How to get your dog used to the process of teeth brushing?

Teeth brushing should start during the puppy stages. If your dog is older, it may take a longer period of time to get your dog used to the process of teeth brushing. However, the time spent will be well worth it.


How can you teach your dog to not fight during teeth brushing?

As it is always said, any new training should be introduced to the dog with positive reinforcement. When you start with the dog teeth brushing process, make it a positive experience for your pup. Praise your dog and offer him or her high value treats. Never ever scold your dog for not doing something you don’t want him or her to.


To achieve the best results, follow the following steps:

Look for a quiet time and place. It would be even better if you choose a time when your dog is tired like after a walk.


If you have a small dog, you can hold him or her in your lap. Remember to keep your dog’s face away from you. If you have a large dog, you can sit on the chair and ask your dog to sit next to you so that you can handle his or her mouth and teeth easily. If your dog is medium-sized or if you can grab him or her between your legs, then you can do so. This is my personal go to method and prevents Delta from escaping.

  • Start by covering your finger with a soft cloth and rub the cloth on the outer surfaces of the dog’s teeth. Use a front and back motion. Focus on the regions where the gum touches the tooth.
  • Be very careful and stay on the outer sides of the teeth. This will keep you from getting bitten accidentally.
  • For the initial lessons, rub the cloth along a few of the front teeth. Do not try to go towards the back teeth unless your pup is comfortable with you touching his or her front teeth completely.
  • Once your dog is completely comfortable with you rubbing his or her teeth, you can move on to introducing the toothpaste.
  • Take a small amount of dog toothpaste on your finger and let your dog have a little taste.
  • Once the toothpaste’s taste has been accepted by your dog, you can start to cover the cloth with a slight amount of toothpaste. Rub the cloth covered with toothpaste on your dog’s teeth.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with the toothpaste on the cloth, it is time to switch the toothpaste from the cloth to the toothbrush.


What kind of toothbrush should you use for dog teeth brushing?

For the process of teeth brushing, you can either use dog toothbrushes or the toothbrushes meant for babies if you don’t have dog toothbrushes available.

Dog toothbrushes generally have certain specificities like:

  • They have angled handles
  • They come with multiple heads so you can brush the inside, outside as well as the top surface of the dog’s tooth.
  • Finger toothbrushes which can easily fit on your finger.
  • Small brushes which can enter their tiny nooks and crevices of your dog’s mouth.
  • The type of toothbrush you choose for your pup will depend on the size of your dog’s mouth as well as on your own capabilities at handling him or her.


A lot of dog guardians find it easier to use a finger brush during the starting stages of brushing. I started with a baby toothbrush and now I use a toothbrush meant for toddlers. If you are feeling uncertain regarding what dog toothbrush you should choose for you pup, you can consult your veterinarian about the same.


Regardless of the dog toothbrush that you choose, the one thing you need to remember is to be gentle. Brush your dog’s teeth slowly as you can accidently hit the toothbrushes tip against the gums and cause irritation and pain.

Other articles which may be of interest to you:

Probiotics for dogs, the myth uncovered

Is shaving the dog a good option?

15 tips to keep your dog’s coat shiny.


Which regions of your dog’s mouth should you focus on when brushing your dog’s teeth?

When brushing your dog’s teeth, focus on the outer region of your dog’s mouth. During the initial stages, focus on brushing the large keep teeth as well as the canine teeth. These are the teeth which have the maximum amount of plaque and tartar accumulation. Eventually you can work up to brushing all of your dog’s teeth.


How to brush the dog’s teeth?

Start by applying a small amount of the toothpaste on the toothbrush. Raise your dog’s lips on one side of the mouth. You can also open your dog’s mouth by placing your freehand over the dog’s head and keep your index finger and thumb on each side of your dog’s jaw and lift his lips.


To get the cleaning done on the lower teeth, you will have to open your dog’s mouth slightly. You can open your dog’s mouth by tilting your dog’s head backwards and holding onto the upper jaw by your freehand.


What are the other things that you can do to maintain a good oral hygiene for your dog?

Maintaining a dog’s oral health is of utmost importance in dog care. Plaque accumulation can occur on the teeth within a few hours of meal consumption.


If you think professional teeth cleaning can keep your dog’s teeth safe from plaque you are wrong. Plaque can develop in your dog’s teeth within a few hours after professional teeth cleaning has been done as well.


In a 24-hour period, the plaque will combine with minerals present in your dog’s saliva and form tartar which is also referred to as calculus. Calculus is very hard to remove. Thus, it is advised that you brush your dog’s teeth every day or at least three times a week.


Dental chews

It has been observed that dental chews can cause plaque production by around 70%. The process of the chewing itself helps in reducing the plaque buildup. Furthermore, the presence of the substance called polyphosphate in dental chews further enhances their properties of eliminating the tartar and plaque from your dog’s mouth.


Most of the dental chews available for dogs are flavored. This is done to make them more appealing to your pup. Hence, they have a bonus of eliminating bad breath in dogs. Dental treats can work just like a mouth freshener or teeth brushing when it comes to removing bad odor from the mouth.


Points to consider when choosing a dental chew for your dog

The points to consider when you select a dental chew for your pup is that they should suit your pup. These should align with your pup’s preference (taste buds), and fit their mouth size as well as their overall personality. For an aggressive chewer, you might go for something which is firmer.

Conduct your research first before buying any dental chew or treats for your dog. Have a talk with your veterinarian, go through the labels and choose the one which suits your dog’s needs perfectly.

Some of the other options apart from dental chews are the rawhide treats, dental biscuits and bones. Rawhide treats are not recommended much nowadays because there have been instances of pups ingesting pieces of the bone.


Advantages of dental chews:

The main advantages of dental chews are as follows:

  • Less plaque build-up (some have shown to reduce plaque build-up by 70%!)
  • Reduces bad breath.
  • Reduces calculus formation.
  • Reduces anxiety and provides mental stimulation
  • Don’t have to run behind your pup with the toothbrush…!!
  • Keeps your dog busy for a long time, prevents him/her from chewing your house down…!

A study done on the long-term effects of dental chews in dogs showed that after 21 months of regular dental chew use (6 days a week use), the calculus, bad breath as well as plaque scores were significantly less in dogs enrolled in the study.


Dental chews for puppies are also a great option. Since puppies are mostly in the teething stage, dental chews can help relieve a lot of gum itch and satisfy their need to chew while preventing them from chewing on your house furniture.


To keep older dogs busy, Nyla bone dental chews are also a great option. But since they are not made of organic material, you must keep an eye on your pup and make sure that he or she does not ingest any part of the bone. 


There are commercial dental chew bones available by the name teeth cleaning dog bones. These claim to clean your pup’s teeth as and when he or she chews on the bone. However, this is not something that I use or have ever tried till date. So, I cannot rightfully comment on this. However, if you have tried this for your pup, leave your opinions on the comment section below. I would love to know about your experience. 


In case of dental chews for senior dogs, consult your vet first, especially if your boy or girl is suffering from any kind of gum diseases. Discuss with your vet about what kind of teeth cleaning dog chews you should give your senior dog. 


Problems with dental chews:

Dental chews have a few side effects. These are as follows:

May not reach the tiny pockets where food accumulation can cause tarter build-up over time.

If not closely monitored, the used dental chew in time can become a choking hazard.

Depending on the material used, some chews can cause dental trauma or have harmful chemicals.

Raw bones can provide a nice environment for bacterial growth which can transfer to the dog’s mouth on chewing the bone.

What should you choose? Dog teeth brushing or dog dental chews?

If you ask me, I’d always support teeth brushing over dental chews. Brushing your dog’s teeth allows you to get a close look at the insides of your dog’s mouth and identify any oral issues ahead of time.

Brushing also allows you to reach the places (all the outer nooks and crevices) which the dental chews may not be able to reach or clean.

Regular brushing enhances your bond with your pup and forges a better connection between the two of you.

Dental chews may break out and get swallowed by your pup causing more harm than good.




What is your favorite way to keep your dog’s teeth clean? Do you favor dog teeth brushing or dog dental chews when it comes to your kid? If you do teeth brushing for your pup, which type of toothbrush do you use? a dog toothbrush or a child toothbrush? You already know my choice. Now it is time you put your choice in the comment section below. 

If you found this post informative, subscribe to this blog so I can regularly send you dog care tips directly in your inbox. 


 Frequently Asked Questions

Which option is better, teeth brushing or dental chews?

Brushing the teeth of your dog is always more favorable. It will allow you to get an inside look in your dog’s mouth. It will also you to clean the corners of your dog’s mouth where the dental chews cannot reach.

My dog does not let me brush the insides of the teeth. What do I do?

Do not worry about brushing the insides of your dog’s teeth. Dog’s do not allow tartar accumulation on the insides of the teeth. They keep the insides clean with their scrappy tongue. However, they cannot clean the outer side of their teeth. Therefore, you should brush the outer regions of your dog’s teeth.

Can I use a human toothbrush on my dog?

Yes, but go for toothbrushes meant for babies (younger dogs) or toddler toothbrushes for older dogs. Make sure the brush is perfect for your dog’s jaw size. If you are confused, talk to your veterinarian about it.

How long should I brush each side of my dog’s teeth?

30 seconds

Can I use human toothpaste for your dog?

NO! Never use human toothpaste on your dogs. Human toothpastes contain fluoride which is toxic to dogs.

I have multiple dogs can I use the same toothbrush for all?

NO! Get a different toothbrush for each, just like human kids.

How long can I use the same toothbrush for my dog?

3 months

What type of dental chews should I buy for my dog?

Go for chews which fit the size of your dog’s mouth. The dental chew should not cut your dog’s mouth while chewing. It should also not break off and become a choking hazard for your dog.

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