Best Dog Toothpaste, Toothbrush, and Dental Treats16 min read
When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
I’ve long understood the importance of brushing my dog’s teeth. Years ago, I worked as a veterinary assistant where I saw firsthand what happens when a pet’s teeth are not taken care of. That’s where the best dog toothpaste, toothbrush, and dental treats can make a difference.
“Proper dental care is a vital component of your pet’s overall health and well-being,” says Ashlee Redmond, veterinarian and area medical director for Vetco Total Care. “Bad breath isn’t just an unpleasant smell — it could be a warning sign of more serious dental disease.”
There are many brands of dog toothpaste and toothbrushes as well as no-brush gels, water additives, and dental chews. Redmond explains that gels, additives, and dental treats do not replace daily brushing or professional dental cleanings. However, they can support overall dental health and prevent the formation of plaque and tartar in between professional cleanings, which veterinarians recommend once a year.
For this guide, I tested 23 dental products with my dog, giving strong consideration to those that have received the seal of acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). All non-VOHC products we tested also got the okay from Redmond to rule out anything that could be potentially unsafe. Read more about how we selected and tested products at the end of this guide, and learn more about how Insider Reviews tests and researches pet products.
Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste is designed to work whether you use it with a toothbrush or just apply it to the teeth and sides of your dog’s mouth with a swab or your finger, so it’s kind of like a toothpaste-dental gel hybrid. However, we recommend brushing your dog’s teeth with it to get the benefits of toothbrushing.
Petsmile’s proprietary formula called Calprox, consisting of calcium peroxide and minerals, is clinically proven to remove plaque, stains, and bad breath and prevent tartar buildup. Unlike some other toothpaste we tested, Petsmile is one of the very few VOHC-accepted toothpaste options, which ultimately moved it to the top spot.
Our pick for the best dog toothpaste comes in two dog-centric meat flavors: London Broil and Rotisserie Chicken. I tested the London Broil flavor and my dog loved it.
When choosing the best dog toothbrush, you have the option of two basic styles: a long-handled toothbrush with nylon bristles similar to a human brush, or a fingertip brush that has soft, plastic nubs on the end. You can also use an ADA-compliant soft bristle flat head toothbrush. A fingertip toothbrush is a good option for puppies or adult dogs that are new to teeth brushing, as it can be a little less scary for the dog.
The Bodhi Dog Doggie Toothbrushes set offers both brush styles. Having extra toothbrushes is great if you have multiple pets, and it also means you can easily replace the brush when it gets yucky. As with human toothbrushes, pet toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months, and always rinse the brush after each use.
I found both types of brushes gentle, effective, and easy to use. The long-handled brushes have very soft bristles, with a larger bristle head on one end and a smaller one on the other end so they work for dogs of all sizes. The fingertip brushes are soft and flexible for gentle cleaning.
I tested six different dental treats with my dog. Most were similar in that they have a firm, chewy texture and a shape designed to clean teeth and gums as the dog chews. Although my dog loved all the dental treats he tried, Greenies Fresh Dental Dog Treats stood out as the best dental treats in the group.
Greenies are dark green chews shaped like little toothbrushes. VOHC accepted for tartar and plaque, they also contain spearmint to help freshen breath. I detected a distinct minty odor as my dog was chewing, but this effect wasn’t particularly long-lasting. Although Greenies are intended to be used just once a day as treats, they are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for adult dog maintenance. This is rare in treats, so it gives Greenies another edge over the competition.
Greenies may cause gastrointestinal upset in some pets or turn stools green. The first ingredient in the treat is wheat flour, so it’s not a good choice for dogs with grain or gluten intolerance. For dogs that cannot eat grains, Whimzees Brushzees Daily Dental Treats, which are VOHC accepted for plaque and tartar, are a good alternative.
Tropiclean Fresh Breath Dental Health Solution for Dogs is VOHC-accepted for plaque. It uses zinc gluconate, cetylpyridinium chloride, and green tea leaf extract to decrease bacteria in the mouth and inhibit plaque formation. Simply add it to your dog’s water bowl daily (1 tablespoon per 16 ounces of water). Each 33.8-ounce bottle contains approximately 67 tablespoons.
The solution is clear, odorless, and mostly tasteless, so most pets won’t know it’s even in their water bowl. In addition to giving this water additive to my dog, I also sampled it myself and detected just the tiniest hint of flavor, which is likely from the green tea extract.
TropiClean gets the nod over the other VOHC accepted water additive we tested, Pet::Essential Healthy Mouth Anti-Plaque Water Additive, because more pets may accept the neutral Tropiclean solution compared to the green hue and mild cinnamon taste of the Pet::Essential additive.
Pet::Essential Healthy Mouth Dog Topical Gel contains multiple natural ingredients to promote a healthy mouth, including zinc gluconate, papain (an enzyme extracted from papaya), pomegranate, yucca extract, blueberry, vitamin C, clove extract, cinnamon extract, and chlorophyll.
This gel is easy to apply. Simply dip the included cotton-tipped applicators into the resealable jar and apply a thin layer of gel to the outsides of the teeth and gums. Use one applicator for the top teeth and gums and a second for the bottom. A little goes a long way and a container should last at least three months. It’s not necessary to apply the gel to the tongue side of the teeth. Use once a day every day at bedtime after your dog’s last meal.
The gel smells wonderful, like cinnamon and clove. My dog accepted the gel readily and seemed to enjoy the flavor. Though the gel is bright green, it will not stain light-colored fur. If it gets on your dog’s fur, just wipe it off with a damp paper towel. This gel beat out the others thanks to its VOHC approval and multiple bacteria- and plaque-fighting ingredients.
Other dog dental products we tested
Toothpastes and gels
- Virbac CET Vanilla/Mint Toothpaste: This toothpaste was a close contender for the category winner, but it’s not VOHC accepted like Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste. It uses enzymes to inhibit the formation of plaque. Although it comes in more traditional flavors like poultry, beef, and seafood, I personally liked the mildly scented vanilla-mint flavor (my dog did too).
- Vetoquinol Care Enzadent Enzymatic Poultry-Flavored Toothpaste: This toothpaste uses enzymes to slow the formation of plaque. My dog enjoyed the poultry flavor. Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste got the edge due to its VOHC accepted status, which this paste doesn’t have.
- Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Oral Care Toothpaste Gel: Oratene may be used with a toothbrush or simply applied to the teeth and gums with your finger. Oratene is not VOHC accepted like our top pick, Pet::Essential Healthy Mouth Anti-Plaque Gel.
- Tropiclean Brushing Gel: Using all-natural ingredients like zinc chloride and green tea leaf extract, Tropiclean Brushing Gel clings to the teeth to break down plaque and tartar and fight bad breath. However, it is not VOHC accepted.
- Bodhi Dog Pet Dental Gel: This gel uses a blend of peppermint, spearmint, and aloe vera to neutralize bad breath. It smells very nice, but it doesn’t contain zinc like Pet::Essential Healthy Mouth Topical Gel, and it’s not VOHC accepted.
- Oxyfresh Dental Gel: This dental gel is clear and nearly odorless, which may appeal to some pets that object to strong tastes. However, it doesn’t contain any zinc like Pet::Essential Healthy Topical Gel, and it’s not VOHC accepted.
- Petsmile Professional Pet Toothbrush: This is a dual-ended, long-handled toothbrush with soft bristles and a nice rubber grip on the handle. Although it’s a really nice toothbrush, it’s hard to justify the price. If you want the Cadillac of pet toothbrushes and don’t mind paying the hefty price, this could be the toothbrush for you.
- Virbac C.E.T. Pet Toothbrush: This toothbrush is soft, with two bristle heads for different size dogs and a long handle to reach the back teeth. It’s affordable, but it doesn’t beat the Bodhi Dog 12-pack.
- Vetoquinol Care Enzadent Dual-Ended Toothbrush: This toothbrush is very similar to the Bodhi Dog Doggie Toothbrushes, but it costs a bit more.
- Oxyfresh Water Additive: Using proprietary Oxygene and zinc acetate, Oxyfresh Water Additive eliminates bacteria that cause bad pet breath, removes plaque buildup, and protects gums. Oxyfresh is not VOHC accepted, unlike our top pick, Tropiclean Fresh Breath Water Additive.
- Pet::Essential Healthy Mouth Anti-Plaque Water Additive: Using natural ingredients, including zinc gluconate and papain, VOHC-accepted pet::Essential’s water additive is proven to reduce bacteria in the mouth and break down plaque. This product turns the water green and has a cinnamon flavor, which some dogs might not accept. Our category pick, Tropiclean Fresh Breath Water Additive, got the nod for being tasteless and odorless.
- Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Oral Care Water Additive: This additive uses a patented LP3 enzyme system as well as zinc chloride to support periodontal health and keep teeth and gums clean. But it’s nearly triple the price of Oxyfresh Pet Water Additive.
- Virbac C.E.T. Veggiedent Dental Chews for Dogs: My dog loved these plant-based chews and they are VOHC accepted for tartar, but because the shape is somewhat flat, he chewed them much quicker than the thicker Greenies Fresh Dental Dog Treats, which are VOHC accepted for both plaque and tartar and are nutritionally complete and balanced.
- Whimzees Brusheez Daily Dental Treats: My dog loved these plant-based chews, which have a similar texture to many other dental treats, including Greenies. They are also VOHC accepted for both plaque and tartar, but Greenies gets the nod for being nutritionally complete and balanced, something rare in treats.
- Purina DentaLife Daily Oral Care Dog Treats: These chews contain plant and meat ingredients, including rice, wheat, barley, and chicken by-product meal. My dog loved these treats, which have a chewy, porous texture that’s quite different from other dental chews on the market. However, they are VOHC accepted for tartar only.
- ProDen PlaqueOff System Crunchy Dental Bites: VOHC accepted for both plaque and tartar, these bite-size crunchy treats contain algae ascophyllum D1070 as the active ingredient. They are very similar in appearance to small-size kibble. Compared to other dental treats like Greenies, which dogs chew slowly, these are chewed and swallowed quickly. Their small size makes them a good option for training treats.
- ProDen PlaqueOff System Dental Care Bones Vegetable Fusion Flavor: These chews are grain-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan (the first ingredient is dried potatoes) and contain probiotics. One size accommodates either small or large dogs because the bones are designed to easily break in half. These chews were a hit with my dog, but they are not VOHC accepted.
Dog dental care FAQs
Should you really brush your dog’s teeth?
Yes. Brushing your dog’s teeth every day is the gold standard. Though you might think something is better than nothing, occasional brushing won’t do much for your dog’s oral hygiene. According to Caroline Washington, dental resident and associate veterinarian at Barrington Animal Hospital in Illinois, there isn’t much benefit to brushing your dog’s teeth less than every other day. Daily brushing is best.
What can I use as toothpaste for my dog?
The best thing you can do at home for your dog’s oral health is to brush their teeth daily with pet-safe toothpaste (never use human toothpaste for your dog—this can make them sick). “Pets that begin having their teeth brushed when they are young can learn to tolerate this activity sometimes better than older pets,” says veterinarian Ashlee Redmond. “However, pets of all ages can learn to accept having their teeth brushed.”
What kind of toothbrush is best for a dog?
When choosing a toothbrush for your dog, you have the option of two basic styles: long-handled, which has nylon bristles similar to your own toothbrush, or fingertip, which fits over your finger and has soft plastic nubs on the end. You can also use an ADA-compliant soft bristle flat head toothbrush. A fingertip toothbrush is a good option for puppies or adult dogs that are new to teeth brushing, as it can be a little less scary for the dog.
Are dental treats good for dogs?
Dental treats are designed to mechanically clean the teeth as the dog chews. “Although less effective than regular brushing at home and certainly not as thorough as a professional cleaning by a veterinarian, dental chews can help keep your dog’s teeth clean — if your dog actually chews them,” says Redmond. Observe your dog to make sure they’re slowly chewing on a dental treat rather than gulping down large chunks or even swallowing the entire chew, which could potentially cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract.
Does teeth-cleaning gel work for dogs?
Dental gels are similar to pet toothpaste, but gels are designed to have prolonged contact with the teeth to deliver ingredients that help fight bacteria, plaque, and tartar. “Zinc ascorbate, gluconate, oxide, and chloride are often incorporated in dental gels and water additives as antibacterial agents to help decrease plaque formation and bad breath,” says Redmond. “After delivery into the oral cavity, the zinc remains in the mouth and helps with decreasing bacteria amounts.”
Are water additives safe for dogs?
Yes. Water additives typically contain similar ingredients as dental gels, but instead of being applied to the teeth, they are added to your dog’s water. It truly doesn’t get easier to care for your dog’s teeth than to pour a capful of water additive into their bowl every day.
What if my dog doesn’t like having their teeth brushed?
Getting your dog used to having their teeth brushed is best started in puppyhood. Introduce the toothbrush slowly and gently, using positive reinforcement. Adult dogs can become accustomed to brushing using similar methods. If your dog really doesn’t like their mouth touched, ask your veterinarian for advice on what to do. Washington says that some dogs find the toothbrush intrusive. Those dogs may accept a soft rubber finger brush or medicated oral wipe wrapped around your finger.
How often does my dog need professional teeth cleaning?
Annual professional cleanings are recommended for most dogs. Small breeds and dogs with dental issues might need cleanings more frequently, every six to nine months. Larger dogs and those with owners who are very diligent about home care might be able to go two years in between cleanings. Your veterinarian can recommend the proper frequency for your dog.
How to brush a dog’s teeth
If you’re new to brushing your dog’s teeth, know that it is easier than you might think! Pet-safe toothpaste comes in enticing flavors like chicken, duck, and beef, so most dogs get on board with brushing pretty quickly.
“The best time to brush your pet’s teeth is when you are both relaxed,” says veterinarian Redmond. “If your pet resists the brushing, growls, bites, scratches, or shows any other signs of aggression during toothbrushing, stop immediately and consult your veterinarian for advice.”
Start out slowly, giving your dog several days or weeks to adjust. It’s okay if you only brush a few teeth at a time for the first few sessions. Focus on the outside surfaces of the teeth. Plaque and tartar generally do not accumulate much on the insides of the teeth since the dog’s tongue is constantly wiping them clean. Keep brushing sessions positive with treats or tummy rubs.
Redmond offers these helpful tips for brushing your dog’s teeth:
- When brushing with a toothbrush, keep the mouth closed and slip the brush in between the cheek and teeth.
- Your pet may try to move backward when you open their mouth; be prepared.
- Using pet toothpaste, brush on the outside of the teeth only. Do not worry about the inside of the teeth.
- Praise your pet frequently during the brushing.
- If your pet tolerates only brief brushing, don’t be discouraged. Some brushing is better than none at all.
Our dog toothpaste and dental products testing methodology
For this guide to the best dog dental products, I tested 23 products with my dog five or more times during a three-month period. Products were provided as editorial review samples by their manufacturers.
VOHC acceptance: Since I am not a veterinary dentist nor a research scientist, I cannot make any claims regarding the efficacy of the products. That’s why strong consideration was given to products that carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance. The VOHC is an entity of the American Veterinary Dental College. Any products not accepted by the VOHC the okay from Redmond to rule out anything that could be potentially unsafe.
“When choosing an at-home dental product, you should look for the VOHC seal of acceptance on the product’s package or website,” says Redmond. “The VOHC provides third-party assessment for dental products. A seal of acceptance means the product meets preset criteria for effectiveness in controlling plaque and tartar deposition in dogs and cats.”
If a product is not VOHC accepted, it either means its manufacturer has not conducted clinical trials that show efficacy or the manufacturer simply has not sought acceptance through the VOHC.
Ease of use: I observed how easy it was to use the toothbrushes as well as whether or not the other products were difficult to administer.
Flavor and texture: If my dog preferred specific flavors and textures, they received extra points. For treats, texture was an important consideration for how well the chew would clean teeth. For water additives, preference was given to odorless products.
Our dog dental care sources
- Ashlee Redmond, DVM, served as medical director of Banfield Pet Hospital, in Vancouver, Washington, at the time of our interview in April 2020. Redmond is currently the area medical director of Petco’s Vetco Total Care in San Diego, California.
- Caroline Washington, DVM, is a dental resident and associate veterinarian at Barrington Animal Hospital in Barrington, Illinois.
- Veterinary Oral Health Council Accepted Products, Veterinary Oral Health Council