Do dental sticks or dental chews work to keep your dog’s teeth clean, or are they a waste of money? We’ve all seen dental chews for dogs, such as the brand-named Dentastix and all of the other generic alternatives; most pet food brands and supermarkets sell their own variant of dog dental chews that purport to keep the dog’s teeth clean and improve their breath.
Dental sticks or chews don’t serve as an alternative to brushing your dog’s teeth, and if your dog has bad breath, there is a reason for this that simply giving them an extra treat won’t fix. However, as part of providing comprehensive dental care for your dog including brushing their teeth and scheduling veterinary dental procedures as and when needed, dog dental chews can play a small part in maintaining clean and healthy teeth.
This article will outline the limitations of dog dental sticks or chews, and explain the limited way in which dental chews can benefit dogs as part of proper dental care. Read on to learn more.
Dog dental chews are instantly recognisable to most of us, as they’re sold more or less anywhere you can buy dog treats of any kind; they are in fact one of the most widely-bought and popular types of dog treats in the UK. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing, as people often misunderstand their purposes and uses, or see them as a magic shortcut to keeping their dog’s teeth healthy or resolving dental problems in the dog. We’ll look at this in a minute, but if you’re not familiar with them, what are dental chews for dogs?
Well, they’re a type of processed dog treat that come in stick form, in various different sizes for different sizes of dog. They’re harder than normal dog treats and chews (which ironically, means that a dog needs fairly strong and healthy teeth to enjoy them safely) and they are usually brown in colour, or some forms are dyed green, the latter usually being sold as containing parsley.
The idea behind dental chews and the reason for both their relative hardness and grooved shape is that when dogs gnaw on them, it helps to clean the surfaces of their teeth that they make contact with. The grooves mean that there is a limited level of contact from both the fronts and backs of the teeth that the dog uses to chew with.
Dog dental chews are usually made in the main part of flour (commonly rice flour) binding agents, flavouring, preservatives, and added vitamins.
The best-known brand name type of dental sticks for dogs in the UK is Dentastix; but more or less every manufacturer of dog treats and shops and supermarkets that sell their own pet food and treat brands provide their own off-brand alternatives too.
The exact makeup of the ingredients in different brands, the sizes available, different flavour or type variants, and other traits can vary from type to type, but their format and purpose is ultimately the same, and there is no real advantage to buying one type over another.
The shape and hardness of dental chews is designed to encourage your dog to chew, and the grooves on the sticks themselves are designed to rub against the surfaces of the dog’s teeth and serve to help to remove debris from them.
While some sorts of dental sticks for dogs make specific claims about the ingredients in them (such as that parsley can help to neutralise the bacteria that causes bad breath in dogs) the key to what they’re supposed to achieve comes from their hardness, shape and ability to promote chewing and gnawing, rather than what they’re made of specifically.
The theory behind dog dental chews is that they rub against the surfaces of your dog’s teeth, and so remove or help to break down bacteria and debris. However, they do not provide anything like a comprehensive or sufficient cleaning to keep your dog’s teeth healthy or reverse issues such as plaque build up; because dogs use specific teeth to gnaw with and so the sticks will only come into contact with these, they don’t come into contact with every surface of the teeth they do touch. Dental chews take most dogs longer to eat than most chews, but they don’t take as long to eat as the time that should be spent cleaning a dog’s teeth and gums.
In simple terms, they help to rub against and clear off the surfaces of certain teeth, but they cannot be said to be cleaning your dog’s teeth in the way that most people mean the question, ie., is it akin to cleaning the dog’s teeth properly; the answer being no.
Additionally, dental sticks can at best only remove surface-level muck, and potentially help prevent plaque and tartar from forming in the first place on areas the dog chews on properly. They cannot remove plaque and tartar build-up in a meaningful way, nor across all of the dog’s teeth.
Unfortunately not! We mentioned earlier on that dental sticks for dogs are one of the most popular types of dog treats in the UK, and many dog owners give their dogs one every day; all of this being because they think this is equivalent to them cleaning their dog’s teeth, or that this constitutes providing the dog with appropriate preventative dental care.
It does not, and feeding dental sticks is ultimately feeding treats; not protecting your dog’s teeth.
Dog dental sticks are not bad for dogs, other than that they lull many dog owners into a false sense of security or result in them failing to clean or care for their dog’s teeth; even in some cases leading to owners ignoring significant dental issues that are already present.
Remember too that dental sticks are a treat, and so contain calories; and also that if your dog has poor dentition, sore gums or dental decay, not only will dental sticks do absolutely nothing about this, but can be painful for your dog to chew too.