Melissa holds a bachelor's degree in biology and is a plant and animal enthusiast with multiple pets.
Why Do Dogs Need Dental Chews?
Every dog owner knows that dogs love to chew, but they also need to. Dogs, being a sub-species of the grey wolf, are carnivorous omnivores that revel in gnawing animal parts of all sorts. Here, the best dental chews are listed along with chew times, reviews, pros, cons, and more.
Best Dental Chews For Dogs
- Greenies Regular Dental Dog Treats
- Arm and Hammer Advanced Tartar Control Twists
- Beneful Healthy Smile Twists
- Blue Buffalo Bone Dental Chews
- Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Dog Chews (Recommended)
- C.E.T. VeggieDent Chews (Recommended)
- Mercola Gentle Dental Bones
- Milk-Bone Brushing Chews
- Simply Nourish Long Lasting Dog Chew
- Raw, Meaty Bones
Each of these dental hygene chew options is discussed in detail below. My two favorite are the Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Dog Chews and the C.E.T. VeggieDent Chews
As forms of essential enrichment that is required with all captive animals, providing something for your dog and other animals to chew on is a great boredom breaker or method of distracting your pet from taking out its instinctual frustration on your walls and shoes.
This behavioral action is more than a pleasurable activity for dogs; when dogs chew for a certain amount of time, they mechanically remove plaque and tartar from their teeth which promotes dental health.
While most people associate ‘dog breath’ as a fact of life in dealing with canines, the truth is that bad breath, or halitosis, is a symptom of underlying diseases that can decrease your dog’s longevity and well being.
In fact, most dogs have some form of dental disease by 3 years of age, and despite the prevalence and normalcy of this condition, it is just as consequential as other ailments that more people pay attention to.
Bad teeth can be a pathway for bacteria to wreak havoc in your dog’s organs and bloodstream, but most people are not aware of the damage that is done when pet dental hygiene is ignored.
What you don't want
The most effective dog chew?
It is essential to brush your pet’s teeth every day. There is really no way around this, even though many products claim to act as a toothbrush.
Also, dogs and cats should have an annual cleaning performed by a veterinarian, particularly if brushing is not done every day. Any cleanings performed without anesthesia are not effective and only treat the areas above the gum line.
Even a dog with perfectly white teeth can have deteriorative plaque under the gums that will eventually lead to gingivitis, then periodontal disease, an incurable condition.
Teeth cleanings are the only way to clean under the gums. That being said, chew bones are great supplementary dental care for dogs. The chewing action reduces some, but not all, plaque accumulation. Brushing is best, then rinsing the teeth with a chlorhexidine solution such as C.E.T 0.12% Cats and Dogs mouth rinse is second best. The third best is chewing with an effective dog chew which is discussed below.
Picking a dental treat for your dog
When seeking a dog chew, people often consider the nutritional content, shape, size, and lasting duration. There are probably different factors involved with what gives animals the best clean, such as chewiness, anti-plaque ingredients, and how your dog chews (do they break off large pieces and gulp or do they take their time gnawing?). Keep in mind that all chews are different sizes and densities, so that plays a part in how long it takes a dog to chew it.
Guidelines to follow for safety and effectiveness
- Feed the right size chew to your dog (read the weight recommendations)
- Always supervise when your dog chews, especially with your dog's first couple of times with the product. Not all dogs chew the same way!
- If your dog quickly swallows the chew or if the chew doesn't last at least a few minutes, you should probably pick a different one.
- The VOHC® Seal of Acceptance (Veterinary Oral Health Council) means effectiveness has been tested and confirmed (a small number of chews have received this distinction).
- Chews that have little or no risk of breaking teeth can be indented with your fingernail, don't hurt if you hit it on your knee cap, and they can be flexed with your bare hands.
- Some products harden over time after opened, so you should use them quickly.
Notes: My dog is around 31 pounds. Always take into account how many calories your pet is receiving and adjust meal sizes accordingly, as a healthy weight is about as important as a healthy mouth.
No dog chews are just as effective as daily brushing (and this includes raw bones), regardless of what the companies claim!
- Veterinary Oral Health Council
The Veterinary Oral Health Council awards its Seal of Acceptance to oral health products that meet pre-set standards for retarding accumulation of dental plaque and calculus (tartar) in dogs and cats.
- Safe Chew Toys for Dogs - Pet Dental Health - Virginia Vet Dentist
Fractured pet teeth are one of the more common dental problems encountered by veterinary dentists.
1. Greenies Regular Dental Dog Treats
Greenies are a popular gelatin-based brand that are sold in pretty much any pet store (they also make a different version for cats).
In the past, there have been complaints of greenies causing impactions in dogs and being indigestiable. Since then, the company changed its formula and much of these complaints have subsided.
These chews are shaped in the form of a toothbrush and feel almost plasticy to the touch. While not easy, they can be bent with force, so they are safe for dogs and will not break teeth. They are clinically proven, although length-wise, they didn't last long with my dog as the video shows. I continue to buy these chews (the weight maintenance variety).
Pros: VOHC Approved. These treats can be flexed, but are not extremely soft.
Cons: They may not last long (in the video my dog finished it in 1:25 minutes).
Gelatin, wheat protein isolate, glycerin, soy protein isolate, sodium caseinate, natural poultry flavor, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, lecithin, vegetable oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), minerals (magnesium amino acid chelate, calcium carbonate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, calcium pantothenate, potassium iodide), vitamins (dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate [source of vitamin E], L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate [source of vitamin C], vitamin B12 supplement, niacin supplement, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride [vitamin B6], thiamine mononitrate [vitamin B1], folic acid), dehydrated tomato, apple pomace, ground flaxseed, dehydrated sweet potato, cranberry fiber, potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness), choline chloride, taurine, carotene, chlorophyll
- snopes.com: Greenies Dog Chews
Are Greenies brand dental chews harmful to dogs?
2. Arm & Hammer Advanced Pet Care Tarter Control Dental Twist Dog Chew
These long chews come in stick form and loops (that are not complete circles). As one might guess from the maker, this is the only brand on the list to contain baking soda. It is very flexible and soft, and an aggressive chewer would likely finish it as though it were a treat. Despite this, I may buy these again.
Pros: Completely safe, cannot break teeth as these are quite flexible and soft.
Cons: Dogs might finish this product quickly.
wheat flour, corn starch, xanathan gum, water, glycerin, food colorants, vitamins premix, green tea leaf extract, tetrapotassium phosphate and baking soda.
3. Beneful Healthy Smile Twists
I picked up these rice-based chews at a regular grocery store in the pet section. These chews are on the short side for people seeking smaller products, and while they seem relatively soft, they are difficult to bend (probably due in part to the short length as well). These chews might be ideal for someone seeking a harder but still 'soft' chew with 'give', as they are not rock-hard but break into fragments easily. In the video one lasted for 2:44 minutes.
Pros: Can be indented by a fingernail. This is quite hard for a soft chew, but it is somewhat bendable. This is an inexpensive and readily available product.
Cons: Contains sugar (sixth ingredient)
Rice, glycerin, wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, sugar, chicken by-product meal, corn germ meal, gelatin, brewers dried yeast, hydrogenated corn syrup, parsley flakes, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, sodium caseinate, calcium phosphate, added color, salt, natural and artificial peanut butter flavor, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid (a preservative), maltodextrins, natural and artificial flavors, calcium propionate (a preservative), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, BHA (a preservative), BHT (a preservative), calcium carbonate, citric acid.
4. Blue Buffalo Blue Bones Regular Dental Chews Dog Treats
This chew is potato-based and lasted 3:44 minutes with my dog.
Pros: The ingredients of this more premium brand might appeal to some. There is no corn, wheat, or soy. Contains some 'real' ingredients like peas and carrots (lower down the list).
Cons: This is one of the more expensive chews, and even with an amazing 50% discount I paid $14 for a regular bag of medium bones, so seeking out sales is a must. This chew is quite soft and easily bendable. It will actually break if you bend it too far.
Whole Ground Potato, Whole Ground Rice, Water, Vegetable Glycerine, Gelatin, Peas, Carrots (source of Vitamin A), Beet Juice, Sunflower Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Oat Bran, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Chicken Flavor, Blueberries, Dried Parsley, Alfalfa Meal (a source of Chlorophyll), Calcium Carbonate, preserved with Citric Acid, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (a source of Vitamin C), Zinc Propionate, Vitamin E Supplement, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Taurine
5. Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Dog Chews (Recommended)
Animal products seem to reign supreme in lasting durability. This beef hide chew lasted an astounding 19:09 minutes in my trial. This is because as the dog chews, the hide moistens and gets really chewy but tough, forcing the dog to gnaw it thoroughly before they can break off a piece and swallow. Although this can vary for others dogs.
Pros: VOHC Approved. For my dog, this chew lasted a very long time relative to the other products. It is fortified with an enzyme that helps to break down plaque in addition to the chewing. I would highly recommend this chew.
Cons: As with all dental chews, supervision is a must. Some aggressive chewers may break off large chunks and swallow them.
Beefhide, dextrose, poultry digest, hydrolysed vegetable protein, primary dried yeast, potasium sorbate, glucose oxidase, dried whey protein concetrate.
6. C.E.T. VeggieDent Chews (Recommended)
These corn-based treats are rather large (regular size 6 inches) and despite their soft look, they are packed quite tightly yet still can be indented. The combination of size and denseness made this chew last 7:33 minutes with my dog.
Pros: VOHC Approved and veterinarian recommended. Contains Chlorhexidine Digluconate which aids in tartar control.
Cons: Some people might not like the ingredients.
Corn Starch, Glycerin, Soya Proteins, Rice Flour, Palatable Agent (Sacharomyces cerevisiae), Sorbitol, Corn Derivatives, Water, Potassium Sorbate, Chlorhexidine Digluconate.
Calorie content 3.4 kcal/gram
You can find this popular rice-based chew in regular grocery stores, Walmart, and several other stores that sell non-premium pet supplies. Like many products they claim to be 'clinically proven' but are not VOHC approved. My dog consumed the chew in 3:14 minutes. It doesn't seem to be as tightly packed as other chews, and my dog breaks off pieces easily vs. gnawing it off as can be seen in the video.
Pros: This could be a good product for dogs who need a softer chew.
Cons: Doesn't last as long as other chews. Breaks apart easier.
Rice Flour, Wheat Starch, Glycerin, Gelatin, Gum Arabic, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Poultry Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Iodized Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate [Source Of Vitamin C], D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Folic Acid, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate [Source Of Vitamin E]), Potassium Sorbate (A Preservative), Smoke Flavor, Zinc Sulfate, Green Tea Extract, Turmeric, Iron Oxide, Copper Sulfate.
Calorie content: 44 calories
8. Mercola Gentle Dental Bones
Dr. Mercola promotes various pseudo-science but regardless, I wanted to review this brand of chew with its unique ingredients (that strangely aren't listed online from what I can find, probably because some of the ingredients turn off the 'alternative/natural' crowd ).
I opted for the Gentle Dental Bones which are supposed to be softer for older dogs or those with 'sensitive' teeth. Surprisingly, they are still quite hard but there is a slight bend, so if using this brand, I recommend the Gentle variety only. I personally would buy these chews again, but I honestly feel that they aren't much superior to cheaper rice-based chews..
Pros: They are brown rice-based, which most see as a 'good grain' for dogs. They are individually wrapped (better for freshness). For its size, it lasts a little longer (5:55 minutes in my trial). If it is your cup of tea, this product claims that the rice used as the first ingredient is USDA organic. They do contain some ingredients that other chews don't have (that I've found) such as cinnamon and parsley powder. They can be slightly indented with a fingernail.
Cons: Only a very slight bend is possible (this is the 'gentle' variety, as opposed to the regular Mercola Dental Bones). These chews are very expensive and there isn't an option to buy smaller quantities (marketing technique).
Organic brown rice powder, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Pea Powder, Tapioca Starch, Water, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrageenan (Natural Seaweed Extract), Cinnamon, Calcium Carbonate, Brewers Dried Yeast, Parsley Powder, Peppermint Oil, Citric Acid, Rosemary Oil, Mixed Tocopherols (Natural Source of Vitamin E).
Calorie content: 117.5 cal/ 1.43 oz (40.54 g)
9. Milk-Bone Brushing Chews for Dogs (small/medium)
This rice-based chew has a 'twist' type design with nubs. My dog consumed this relatively small chew in 4:24 minutes.
Pros: VOHC Approved. These chews are readily available (I found them at my local grocery store) so they are economically feasible and reduce tartar to the same effect as twice a week brushing when fed daily. Due to these factors, I recommend these chews.
Cons: Slightly hard and bends only very slightly.
Rice, Modified Food Starch, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Water, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Bone Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Gelatin, Animal Digest, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Used As A Preservative), Smoke Flavor, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Bha (Used As A Preservative).
Calorie content: 62 calories
- Milk-Bone to launch clinically efficacious brushing chew in March
Studies show product is as effective as twice-per-week brushing when given daily.
10. Simply Nourish Long Lasting Dog Chew
This potato-based brand touts that it is 'long-lasting'. In the video the chew lasted for 11:11 minutes, so compared to the other contestants that is quite long, but don't expect it to last your dog an hour unless they are very un-aggressive chewers and take periodic breaks. I would buy these chews again.
Pros: Lasts a little longer than the other chews.
Cons: They are not bendable (I need to buy these again for pictures and further assessment as I used mine up too fast).
Whole Ground Potato, Vegetable Glycerin, Gelatin, Natural Chicken Flavor, Cranberries, Blueberries, Zinc Propionate and Natural Flavor
Because vets don't recommend giving your dog chews that you can't bend, I won't give my dog these potato-based chews anymore, which come in 'whimsical' shapes such as an alligator, quad-bone, and hedgehog (I used the toothbrush shape). They are great chews for rodents, however.
Pros: They last long and are cheap. Product reviews are high.
Cons: Very, very hard. Impossible to break or indent. This chew can potentially break teeth, but because it can actually be chewed and eaten, it isn't as bad as antlers.
Potato starch, glycerin, powdered cellulose, lecithin, dried brewer's yeast, calcium carbonate, rice, color added (malt extract, annatto extract, alfalfa extract)
12. Kanoodles (medium)
This product (also pictured at the top of this article) was so unique that even though I wouldn't consider it a 'top-selling' brand I had to try it out! If your dog enjoys tackling interesting shapes this product might be for you. The product makers claim that this unique shape is specially designed to scrape off tartar, although there are no clinical tests to confirm this. Because of its different shape and compactness I will buy these again.
Pros: Indentable and bendable, yet firm.
Cons: Lasted 2:53 minutes in the video.
Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour, Oat Flour, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Zinc Acetate, Soluble fibre
13. Raw Meaty Bones
I thought I would include raw meaty bones on this list since they have enjoyed a recent rise in popularity as a dental cleaning tool. When it comes to raw bones, they aren't all created equal for effective cleaning and many of them carry unnecessary risks. After breaking a tooth on a pork bone, my dog no longer receives raw bones (the raw bone in this video is the last one she received, prior to her extraction dental surgery). The particular bones used in the video, pictured right, lasted 7:30 minutes. That is relatively long but not the longest that I've seen with other chews. Bigger bones will last even longer, obviously, but are they worth the risks?
Pros: The right kind of bones have muscle-tissue attached that your dog must chew and pry off. They are also not too thick (beef marrow) or too thin (chicken wings, except for very small dogs). In my experience, this has resulted in the most noticeable change in my dog's teeth (measured by decrease of visible tartar).
Cons: Exposure to bacteria and pathogens for your dog, inconvenience with storage (lasts in the refrigerator for about 3 days), cannot be used on carpets, and it is pretty much impossible to clean your dog after it has consumed the bone, potentially exposing the more susceptible owner to harmful bacteria. Some raw bones can cause tooth fractures.
I do not recommend feeding raw bones (as do most vets) but if you must feed them follow this link to reduce the chance that your dog will break teeth.
- Raw Bones or Cooked Bones ... Are Either Safe for Dogs? | petMD
You've probably heard people tell you that feeding bones is natural and healthy for dogs, and that feeding bones promotes clean teeth and aids the nutritional status of the animal. Well, mushrooms are natural, too, and certain kinds will kill a dog i
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.
Questions & Answers
Question: What dental treat would be appropriate and healthy for a 3 pound Yorkie?
Answer: Your best bet is a VOHC-approved treat such as Greenies, the mini size. Be sure to adjust the diet based on the calories given.
Question: What is your view of Tartar Shield?
Answer: I've used them, and they are approved by the VOHC. They are rawhide, and I believe some vets don't recommend rawhide. I've had no issues.
Kate on May 14, 2020:
I'm annoyed that nylabone nutradent isn't in this group. Comparing teenie greenies to mini nutradent, greenies are much higher in calories. I didn't see calorie content factored into any of these!
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 07, 2018:
Tuck, I'm not sure.
Tuck on November 05, 2018:
Are any of these low sodium?
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 20, 2018:
Tim: Greenies has a lower calorie option. Make sure she gets plenty of exercise as well. If she is older, it can be more difficult for them to shed pounds. I'd replace half the food with a high-fiber dog food. I used to use the vegetable-based Sojos food with my senior dog.
Tim on January 20, 2018:
I keep hunting for calorie count. I find it nowhere. My chi is about two pounds overweight. I am wondering if one Nutri Dent mini a day is too much. Would cutting it to two a week be helpful? I don't know how many calories she needs, but she needs to get back down to ten pounds according to the vet. I keep reducing her intake, but I see no change. Would fewer dental chews make a difference? Or are they already low calorie?
Sam on December 04, 2017:
After giving my Jack Rascal bone shanks as suggested by my vet, he cracked some of his upper molars which led to infection and had to be extracted.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 08, 2015:
30 minutes isn't bad, right? Nothing really lasts for my dog but that's what you sacrifice for the safety of the teeth.
Frida Nyberg from Sweden on March 07, 2015:
Well I'd dare you to find something tough enough for larger dogs with huge mouths and appetites. :P
My 35 kg Ca de Bou will swallow anything he can whole, and huge raw hide bones (which I don't give anymore) could be gone in half an hour. The only thing that lasts at all are real bones, anything else he will just chew to bits in seconds or minutes at most and won't clean his teeth.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 06, 2015:
Thank you Bob, I hope people will find this useful.
Bob Bamberg on March 05, 2015:
Great hub, Mellisa! Most people don't think of dental chews in terms of environmental enrichment, and your opening paragraphs addressed that. I also liked your inclusion of ingredient panels. Folks who have dogs with a wheat intolerance will note that several of the dental chews contain wheat and brewer's yeast, another possible allergen. I'll bet not many realized that until reading your hub. Your list also contained a number of chews that don't contain wheat. In fact, Greenies just came out with a grain-free line, too. Voted up, useful and interesting.