Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
Sadly, oral health problems are some of the most preventable medical conditions that are commonly found in our companion animals. Dental disease is so common in dogs that over 80% of dogs over the age of three suffer from this problem. Periodontal disease, which is estimated to occur in over 2/3 of dogs, is the result of the accumulation of tartar, which is hardened and mineralized plaque.
Preventing this disease is relatively simple and straightforward; just like with humans, dogs and cats need their teeth brushed daily and should have regular cleanings by vets. This, however, presents a significant challenge for most owners, as pets tend to hate this process and owners find it tedious.
Dog Dental Products
As a response to the oral health problems that most dog owners will inevitably have to face, several dental products have flooded the market with claims to offer alternatives to tooth brushing and cleanings under anesthesia. Some of these products are substances that are simply applied to your pet's teeth without any brushing. They include:
- Dental sprays
- Dental gels
- Foaming cleansers
- Water additives
- Dental wipes
These products are intended to aid in your pet's dental management without the stress and frustration of brushing. However, are these products effective? Can they really replace brushing or at least be a helpful supplement for your pet's dental care?
There are several dog dental sprays that make various claims—with some being less than credible—and have different active ingredients. The following are a couple of products that are currently available from various sources. Here are a few products that represent the myriad of ingredient formulations and claims of efficacy.
Advanced Oral Care Dental Spray by Nylabone
This product has been "formulated with Denta C", which it claims is "scientifically proven to help reduce plaque that harbors bacteria" and that the product is "vet-recommended"."Denta-C" is stated to be different ingredients, including vitamin C and Sodium Hexametaphosphate.
The benefits of this product are stated to be:
- A compliment to brushing or without brushing for "easy daily maintenance"
- Reduces bad breath
- Reduces plaque and tartar buildup that harbor bacteria
The user simply needs to spray the product on the dog's teeth and gums.
Arm & Hammer Fresh Breath Dog Dental Spray
The Arm & Hammer Fresh Breath Dog Dental Spray has similar claims to Nylabone's product, although the ingredients are different, including that it doesn't contain the "Denta C" formulation. The first active ingredients in this brand are Sorbitol, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate.
Research has shown that sorbitol reduces dental caries in humans, although one study found it might not be as effective as xylitol , a sugar that is toxic to dogs in certain concentrations.
Vetradent is a line of dental products for dogs and cats including water additives, toothpaste, sprays, chews, and tooth wipes. The Vetradent Oral Spray is claimed to be "scientifically proven" to control tartar, plaque, and bad breath by using "Biotrate technology" (it doesn't clarify what this is) that is exclusive to the company.
The active ingredients are sodium citrate, citric acid, and zinc chloride. In a clinical trial, the product was shown to reduce tartar, and the mechanism of sodium citrate is said to be that it acts as an "antibiofilm and antimicrobial agent", inhibiting the formation of plaque by biding to calcium and keeping it in a soluble form so that it can't form tartar 
Leba III Pet Dental Spray
Marketed for both dogs and cats, Leba Dental Spray has Ethyl Alcohol as its active ingredient. The product states that it helps dental health by "balancing the chemistry of the mouth" and that the user will not need periodontal cleaning anymore.
They also claim that other products that have antibacterial action damage "the environment of the mouth." While certain amounts of ethyl alcohol can be toxic to dogs, the website states that the amount in their product, 25%, is not a toxic dose.
The directions state to spray the product once or twice daily and that there are "no side effects."
Spray Me Natural Dental Spray
- This is a product that claims to be "natural" and "holistic."
- The active ingredients include "essential oils" and are grapefruit seed extract, peppermint oil, grape seed extract, grain alcohol, rosemary oil, thyme oil, neem seed oil.
- The company claims the product will "bond with your dog's saliva" and works throughout the mouth. In addition, it claims that no more toothbrushing will be necessary. It is claimed that when used properly, customers have reported improvement within three to eight weeks.
- The product makes the unscientific claim that it "boosts the immune system" by "ridding bacteria and free radicals throughout the mouth."
Total Oral Care Spray With Aloe Vera
- This is another so-called "natural" product that acknowledges the dangers of periodontal disease in pets yet claims that a simple spray will eliminate the need for tooth brushing.
- The company claims the product will stop oral and gum disease while also eliminating bad breath. The ingredients are advertised as "human-grade" and they include peppermint, cloves, honey, cinnamon, and Aloe vera.
- You can spray this in your pet's mouth or even add it to the water bowl to "balance oral chemistry."
Only Natural Pet All Smiles Oral Care Mouth Spray for Dogs & Cats
The Only Natural Pet is a company that specializes in products deemed "natural" and "alternative". This product is an herbal spray that makes the usual claims that it can prevent bad breath and plaque build-up. The main ingredients are Peppermint leaf, Wild Indigo root, Echinacea Angustifolia root, and Spilanthes.
Of particular concern is a statement made by the company: "Occasionally take your pet to anesthesia-free teeth cleaning or a veterinarian to have the plaque removed from under the gums."
It should be noted that only a veterinarian can remove plaque under the gums and anesthesia is required to do so.
Healthy Mouth Topical Spray
This is the only VOHC-approved dental spray at the time of this writing. This means that it has undergone clinical trials. Healthy Mouth products work by "softening" plaque in dogs, cats, and horses. It also says that the formula "coats the buccal cavity of the animal to provide continuous protection against the accumulation of bacteria."
The active ingredients are papain (a natural enzyme) and zinc gluconate (an anti-microbial). The product is even recommended by Fraser Hale, who is a board-certified veterinary dentist, when it is used as part of an oral care program. However, another skeptical veterinarian has raised concerns about the evidence behind the ingredients used.
How to Select a Dental Spray
- Look for the VOHC label. The Veterinary Oral Health Council approves products that have been shown to be effective at reducing plaque and tartar in at least one scientific study.
- Avoid products that claim no brushing or veterinary care is required. If the manufacturer makes the claim that their spray is all you will need to maintain your pet's dental health, they are more likely to be pushing a formula with little or no evidence for efficacy. Tooth brushing will always be superior to dental sprays, and dogs should have regular dental cleanings performed under anesthesia. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are unpleasant for pets and only make the surface of the tooth (the crown) look better but do not address the underlying disease.
- Look for sprays that use ingredients that are evidence-based. As a supplement to a good dental routine, sprays can offer benefits, although they are guesswork without clinical trials. Your best bet would be to choose a product that has ingredients with known bioactivity against plaque and tartar.
Do Dental Sprays Work?
Some dog dental sprays may "work" in only reducing the adherence of plaque, prolonging the accumulation of tartar, and the subsequent development of dental diseases. However, in general, it is recommended to do routine dental cleanings and frequently brush your pet's teeth. Teeth brushing would ideally be done every day, but it is acceptable to brush a few times a week while offering other VOHC-approved products to prolong tartar underneath the gumline.
What About Dogs That Cannot Get Anesthesia?
Sadly, some dogs cannot get dental cleanings under anesthesia due to age, illness, and other factors. Sprays may have limited, if any, effectiveness in these dogs, but anecdotally, some owners report that some of these sprays have reduced their dogs' foul-smelling breath. If your pet doesn't mind the spray, it is a better option than possibly painful brushing (potentially ineffective in dogs that have dental problems and cannot get a proper dental cleaning) and dental dog chews.
- Bellows, Jane. The Ultimate Guide to Veterinary Dental Home Care. May 4, 2017.
- Dunne, Joe. Is ‘Doggy Mouthwash’ Dangerous? February 18, 2019
- Gales, Mark A., and To-Mai Nguyen. "Sorbitol compared with xylitol in prevention of dental caries." Annals of Pharmacotherapy 34.1 (2000): 98-100.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Melissa A Smith