Just like humans, many dogs have dental issues that can cause pain and health problems, not only in their mouths. Heart disease, kidney and liver problems, and lung disease have all been linked to periodontal disease in both dogs and humans.
If your dog has severe tartar buildup it’s critical that it sees a veterinarian to have it removed. I won’t talk anymore about the procedures for that now, but will in a future article.
Here and now my focus is on how we can prevent tartar to build up in the first place, and how to clean your dog’s teeth naturally with simple methods.
But first, let’s look at some of the reasons why dogs even have these problems with their teeth. If you couldn’t care less about that, you’re welcome to skip this part. Instead, click on the headline you want to jump to in the quick navigation below.
Do Wolves Need To Brush Their Teeth?
Obviously, this is a crazy question. Even if they needed to, they can’t brush. And there’s no human around to do it for them. (And if a human was around, it would probably not be a good idea to try and brush the wolf’s teeth!)
But still, since dogs and wolves are the same species, it’s a relevant issue to explore.
So, do wolves live their lives with decayed, encrusted and discolored teeth beacuse there is noone there to brush them?
No, of course not. That would make them sick and fragile, and the forces of evolution would have made the species either extinct or change.
How come their dental health is so good then? The answer lies in the diet.
Why Wolves Have Healthy Teeth And Modern Isn’t Always Better
Wolves eat prey, period. They don’t graze, or eat fruit or vegetables of any kind. They don’t even eat the stomach contents of their grazing prey.
This means they don’t eat carbohydrates at all. And carbs, especially the simple ones like starch, are responsible for plaque and tartar buildup.
Plaque is unfriendly bacteria that colonize on the teeth where microparticles from carbohydrate rich food stick to the surface. In time, the plaque hardens to tartar under the influence of enzymes in the dog’s saliva.
(Let’s quickly make one thing clear before we move on. The bodies of humans and dogs alike are occupied by billions of bacteria of various kinds. They are absolutely essential for us, and are part of our immune system, our digestion and participate in many other functions in the body. The bacteria that colonize on carbs on the teeth are of an unfriendly kind that we don’t need and that can harm us.)
Most modern day dog food is rich in carbohydrates. It contains corn, tapioca, grains, rice, sweet potatoes and white potatoes and other sources of carbs.
See where we’re going here?
The deviation from the diet that dogs and wolves have evolved to thrive on not only causes obesity and other metabolic syndrome diseases. It also causes chronic periodontal disease in our dogs. Our bad.
But Kibble Is Good For Dog Teeth Health, Right?
There is a claim often heard that kibble keeps your dog’s teeth clean. The underlying assumption is that the abrasive surface of the kibble scrapes off plaque and bacteria.
This is a myth. It’s actually the other way around. Kibble, more often than not rich in carbohydrates, promotes poor dental health. Tiny bits of the kibble get stuck between teeth and becomes excellent seedbeds for the unfriendly bacteria to grow on. Compare to us eating crackers to clean our teeth. Doesn’t really sound plausible, does it?
Soft food on the other hand is easily transported away from the teeth with the saliva or when the dog drinks water.
Meat, that is raw food, also contains enzymes that prevent tartar buildup.
Right then, let’s dive into the actual topic of this article, how to clean your dog’s teeth naturally in the comfort of your home!
#1: Change Your Dog’s Diet
If you chose to read the above about why our beloved canines suffer from periodontal disease in the first place, you already know that this is a biggie.
Strictly speaking, it’s obviously not about cleaning your dog’s teeth. It’s about preventing the need for it.
If you feed your sweet mutt the food it’s meant to eat as a biological being, there will be no tartar build up or inflamed gums. No need for performing dental cleaning using anesthesia.
However, since the vast majority of commercial dog foods are not what wolves and dogs are adapted to eat, helping your dog to keep her teeth clean is essential. So let’s look at how this can be done at home.
#2: Serve Raw Meaty Bones
In the wild, dogs and wolves eat nothing but raw food. They chew on carcasses and bones. This way their teeth get cleaned naturally.
Giving your dog raw meaty bones will not only help her with her dental hygiene, but will also put her in seventh heaven! My dogs can spend hours blissfully chewing on their bones.
Never ever give your dog cooked bones! Cooked bones become fragile and can easily splinter and cause both mouth and internal injuries. There are no cooked bones in the wild…
Note: if your dog already have dental or other mouth problems, check with your veterinarian that giving her raw bones is ok and will not make matters worse.
#3: Enzymatic Dog Toothpastes
Enzymes are molecules that start chemical reactions. In this case, the wanted reaction is dissolving plaque and tartar. The toothpaste not only cleans the teeth by mechanical action, but also works after the actual brushing is completed.
Now this option obviously demands that your dog allows you to brush her teeth. In my experience, most dogs can be made to accept this with time and patience. A nice tasting toothpaste (from a dog’s point of view) helps a lot.
Start with very short sessions, perhaps just a quick stroke with a finger brush with toothpaste on it. Patience and being gentle really is key here.
You might want to try this 3-sided toothbrush (Amazon). It brushes all three sides of the tooth at the same time, so even if you only manage one stroke you will still have reached the whole tooth. Pretty clever!
Another option is to put some toothpaste on a chew toy (see below!). Perhaps not as effective as brushing since you won’t know for sure that all teeth are treated, but certainly better than nothing.
This paste on Amazon is extensively and very well reviewed. Comes in four yummy tastes!
#4: Dog Dental Spray
I haven’t tried these myself, but I’ve heard many dog owner friends speak well of them and they are very well reviewed by users.
But watch out, several of them merely freshens the breath (hopefully) and does not attempt to actually help with cleaning teeth. You want to look for the ones that have a clear mission to help prevent plaque and tartar to build up.
Some of those even claim to over time remove already existing tartar. Perhaps this is true for slight buildup, but I wouldn’t count on it.
I do think these are a good option for maintaining already tartar free teeth, provided you use them daily. They’re easy to use, and to be honest, that increases the probability that I will actually pursue the habit A LOT.
A good one I’ve found on Amazon is Premium Pet Dental Spray. (The company slogan is “Pets are kids too“, which I don’t like at all. Pets are individuals with a right to be respected for what and who they are in terms of species and personality. They’re not your baby. Sorry, had to be said!)
The spray itself seems truly good and effective, and has a ton of positive reviews. Ingredients are mostly natural and simple: purified water, aloe vera extract, peppermint, spearmint, glycerin, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, baking soda, and stevia. Sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate are preservatives.
#5: Dental Powders To Sprinkle On Food
These work much like the sprays in preventing plaque forming on teeth. Some of them also contain abrasives like zeolites, and some even probiotics.
The main purpose of the probiotics is to help support a healthy bacterial balance in your dog’s mouth. Remember that plaque is unfriendly bacteria that have formed colonies on the teeth? The good guys help battle the evil ones and make it harder for them to grow and form the plaque.
So are these a good option? Again, I haven’t tried them myself, but I’ve found at least one that has been proven in a clinical study to have effect on the prevalence of both plaque and tartar. Being a biologist, I tend to favor products that have undergone double-blind trials.
You can check the availability on Amazon in convenient and good-worth-for-money two or three packs: VetriScience Laboratories Perio Support, Dental Health Powder.
And it can’t get any easier than sprinkling some powder on the food, right? And at least for me, that’s a strong positive argument!
#6: Coconut Oil As Dog Toothpaste
Doesn’t get more natural than this. Personally, I love coconut oil and use it a lot in cooking and for skin care.
And what do you know, it’s also a great and totally natural toothpaste for your dog!
Dogs love the taste of it, so don’t go for the deodorized kind.
Coconut oil has anti-microbial properties, which helps in eliminating the unfriendly bacteria that make up the plaque.
And to make matters even better, it also has a bunch of other beneficial effects on your dog! How about helping the immune system and digestion, improving skin (also in humans!) and coat, and even supporting joints.
So don’t worry if your dog swallows the ‘toothpaste’, give her some more instead! (A word of caution here, too much coconut oil can cause diarrhea. Not dangerous, but not what you want.)
There are quite a few brands to choose between on Amazon, but organic is an obvious choice for me.
#7: Chew Toys For Dog Teeth Cleaning
Truth be told, I’m not convinced about the effect a chew toy in itself has when it comes to cleaning your pooch’s teeth. But, combined with a good dog toothpaste it might do the trick. If you have a hard time brushing her teeth but want to, this could be exactly what you need.
The design of the chew is important, any old rubber bone won’t do. What you need is a lot of bristles that can grind away plaque and reach in between teeth and at the back of the mouth.
In combination with an enzymatic toothpaste or coconut oil the result could be even better than with a toothbrush. And much more fun for your dog!
A good choice seems to be this one on Amazon. It comes in two sizes and is made with rubber, totally natural and non-toxic.
Not a big investment for sure, so why not give it a try!
#8, Extra: Mira-Pet Ultrasound Toothbrush for Dogs
If the chew toy is not a big investment, this is! But this article is all about how to clean your dog’s teeth naturally at home, and this is a perfect fit for that. Who says natural has to mean cheap?
It’s actually pretty simple. Ultrasound, in combination with a special toothpaste, creates airwaves that destroy bacteria and removes plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. It also works on the gums and in the gum pockets.
To me, even though it involves technology, that definitely counts as natural. The technology itself is not new, it’s been used for decades with humans. The novelty is applying it to pet health.
A major advantage is the fact that you can use the toothbrush without any vibration at all. The ultrasound effect does not need any movement. This makes the procedure silent and fast, it takes only 45-60 seconds to clean all of your dog’s teeth.
If there is already tartar buildup you’re advised to clean as often as possible, at least daily. If there is no tartar once or twice a week is said to be sufficient.
The company (
Check it out on Amazon and
I will order one for sure and when I’ve tried it out I’ll come back and update this page with my experiences.