The Best Dog Toothpastes for Plaque & Tartar

A clean mouth is a healthy, comfortable mouth.
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Plaque and tartar will accumulate in a dog's mouth unless they are stopped. This can lead to discomfort and dental disease. Regular brushing, even without toothpaste, can help remove plaque, which will then prevent tartar. Using dog toothpastes with specific ingredients offers further protection and effectiveness.

Why Dogs Need Dental Care

Over 68 percent of dogs older than 3 have some form of dental disease. Dental issues begin with the formation of plaque, a thin film of bacteria that builds up daily. If not removed regularly, plaque hardens and forms tartar, a mineral covering that's even more difficult to remove than plaque. If tartar is not removed, it leads to inflammation, infection and eventual tooth loss in many cases. A mouth full of tartar is an uncomfortable, sore mouth.

Brushing Gums and Teeth

Brushing alone removes about half of the plaque in a dog's mouth. If kept in check, plaque won't have a chance to accumulate, and neither will tartar. When choosing a brush, avoid toothbrushes for people, which make it difficult to gauge the edges of the mouth. This can lead to gagging or nicking your dog's mouth. Use a dog toothbrush, or a baby toothbrush. You also can use your finger, although it doesn't have as much abrasive quality.


Enzymatic toothpastes made for pets contain enzymes designed to break down plaque. Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic, also is considered an effective anti-plaque ingredient used in pet toothpaste. Chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues and surfaces, and is released slowly into the oral cavity. Although it has a bitter taste, it can be combined with flavorful ingredients such as chicken broth. There are several dental wipes on the market, which can be rubbed on a dog's teeth and gums to remove plaque.


The active ingredient in tartar-control toothpastes is usually pyrophosphate, which may reduce up to 36 percent of tartar. Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide have oxygenating, anti-bacterial properties which can help break down tartar. Vitamin C also may remove tartar. The National Institutes of Health performed a study with vitamin-C chewing gum, and found it reduced tartar 33 percent. Therefore, buying or making dog toothpastes containing vitamin C may assist in the removal of stubborn tartar.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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