Bad dog breath is not for the faint of heart—it can turn even the sweetest cuddle sessions into a fight for clean air that doesn’t reek of rotten sulphur. But if your dog comes down with a case of the dreaded stink breath, you can’t exactly whip out the Listerine and Sonicare to remedy the problem. Your dog needs their own tooth-scrubbing alternative: dental chews!

Dental chews are the easiest way to maintain your dog’s oral health, but they’re not all created equal. Did you know that 80% of dogs over the age of 3 have developed periodontal disease (or dental disease)? And yet only 2% of dog parents in the United States provide daily dental care for their dogs.

Dogs need us to care of their teeth just like we take care of our own. That means, ideally, daily brushing with a toothbrush and dog-friendly toothpaste. Slack on the brushing, and plaque formation and bad breath come full force.

What Is The Difference Between Plaque & Tartar?

Plaque is a biofilm that builds up on the surface of the teeth and feeds bad breath-causing bacteria. It’s made up of food debris, saliva, and bacteria that form a sticky discoloration. While still soft, it can be removed by dental chews or toys, but if left alone it will accumulate minerals from saliva and harden in tartar, even below the gumline. Tartar is significantly more difficult to remove than plaque, and usually requires a visit to the veterinary dentist for a professional cleaning.

Can I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-friendly toothpaste (never use toothpaste designed for humans; it often contains a sweetener called xylitol that’s highly toxic to dogs, and tend to be high in sodium. At best, your dog gets a tummy ache and has some digestive upset. At worst, you’re in for a trip to the emergency vet.)

Not all dogs are particularly eager about toothbrushing, choosing to flee at the sight of a brush, or simply squirming too much to allow you to get that 2 minutes per day in. It’s always a good idea to have plenty of treats on hand and to brush in small increments to start. Many dogs will grow accustomed to the routine, but for many, it’s a Herculean task. Alternatively, dog parents turn to dental chews to keep plaque formation at bay.

What Causes Bad Breath In Dogs?

Similar to humans, it all starts with gingivitis. Plaque and tartar buildup can trigger periodontal disease in dogs, which is a term used to diagnose and describe inflammation of the tissue surrounding their teeth. The mouth is a playground for bacteria, and when plaque accumulates over time without treatment, your dog can produce some seriously rank halitosis.

Bad breath intensifies with advanced periodontal disease, so you’ll want to take swift action to bring back the fresh puppy breath (or at least an odor that doesn’t hit you like a brick). Proven to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup up to 20–30%, consider incorporating any of these dental chews into your dog’s daily dental regime:

This “toothbrush” is a real treat! BARK Bright does what no other dog dental product on the market has done before: it pairs a chewy, star-shaped dental chew with a triple-enzymatic toothpaste. The shape of the chew actually allows you to squeeze the toothpaste along a specially designed groove, so while your dog chews and scrubs away debris, they’re dispersing the toothpaste throughout their mouth and letting the enzymes break down plaque-causing bacteria—even after they’re done chewing.

Why We Love It:

  • Each kit includes a month’s supply of chews and toothpaste
  • Toothpaste contains the most enzymes of any dog toothpaste
  • Made with REAL chicken
  • Developed with Novozymes, a biotech company in Denmark
  • Ingredients sourced from the USA and Denmark, manufactured in the USA

BUY HERE, $30/month from BARK Bright; also available at Target, Petco, Petsmart, and select CVS pharmacies

PLUS, if you already subscribe to BarkBox or Super Chewer, you can add Bright as a recurring add-on for just $25/month.

Textured chew toys provide the same mechanical function as consumable chews by helping to remove pesky plaque. This mint-scented, nylon infused dental chew is perfect for tricking your dog into daily dental care, and can even be paired with an enzymatic toothpaste. Just apply the paste with a cotton pad or toothbrush, and let your dog “brush” with the toy.

Why We Love It:

  • Multiple sizes available
  • Mint-scented for more engaging play
  • Three-pronged shape for dynamic dental chewing

BUY HERE, $14 from BARK Shop

Related Article: Is BARK Bright Worth It? A Look Inside Dog Dental Care & This First-Ever Dental Kit System For Dogs

These plant-based chews are soft enough to chew, but tough enough to work their way through the toughest plaque. They even contain a probiotic to maintain gut health and aid digestion! As dogs chew, the unique Z shape helps reach more of the tooth’s surface to boost benefits and freshen breath.

Why We Love It:

  • Z-shaped for a more effective clean
  • Meat-free, ideal for dogs with food sensitivities
  • Supports digestion with a prebiotic
  • Multiple sizes available

BUY HERE, $19.22+ on Amazon

Designed with a curved shape for easy paw grippin’, this dental chew promotes productive chewing for optimal teeth-cleaning. The infused bacon flavor keeps dogs interested and engaged, but please note that this chew is NOT edible. If you see your pup attempting to consume it, discard and replace.

Why We Love It:

  • 100% USA-sourced real bacon
  • Textured ridges for super-powered scrubbing
  • Available in multiple sizes and flavors

BUY HERE, $10.45+ on Amazon

Greenies’ chewy dental treats feature a (yes, green) toothbrush-shaped treat that fights plaque buildup through daily chewing action. They’re made with natural ingredients that are easy to digest, and come fortified with health-boosting vitamins and minerals.

Why We Love It:

  • Soluble ingredients
  • Easy-to-chew texture
  • Designed for daily use

BUY HERE, $33.98 from Chewy

These dog bone-shaped dental treats are delicious (according to dogs), and optimized for your dog’s oral health. They contain no poultry by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy, but DO contain parsley for fresher breath, and peas and blueberries to aid digestion.

Why We Love It:

  • No artificial preservatives or dyes
  • Enhanced with minerals and wholesome ingredients
  • Unique shape and chewy texture

BUY HERE, $31.96 on Amazon

Whimzees chews are all-natural, non-GMO, vegetarian dental chews. Available in three fun shapes, they help clean away plaque and freshen breath, and are ideal for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities.

Why We Love It:

  • Variety of fun shapes and textures
  • Meat-free for sensitive tummies
  • Manufactured in the Netherlands

BUY HERE, $30.89 on Amazon

Every dog’s a drama queen when the dreaded toothbrush rears its bristled head. Designed for brushing (and not for casual gnawing), keep this “toy” exciting and new by removing it after several minutes of chewing with toothpaste added to the reservoirs.

Pairs best with Bright’s triple-enzyme toothpaste: squeeze along the marked grooves, and the natural rubber bristles will help clean teeth and disperse the enzymes for fresher breath, whiter teeth, and a healthier mouth.

Why We Love It:

  • Vanilla-scented
  • Toothpaste reservoir
  • Scrubs top and bottom teeth
  • Rocking feature
  • Multiple sizes available

BUY HERE, $14 on BARK Shop

When Do Dogs Need A Professional Dental Cleaning?

Dental chews are great for preventative care, but if your dog already has advanced plaque and tartar buildup, they’ll need a professional cleaning to start fresh. Other signs a veterinary dentist is needed include:

  • Swollen or bleeding gums
  • Very bad breath
  • Loss of appetite/dropping food from mouth
  • Abnormal drooling/difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of interest in chew toys
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Discolored teeth (dark brown/black/yellow)

Oh hey, just so you know: You should always see your vet if you have questions or concerns about your dogs’ health—they know their stuff! Please do not use dental chews as an alternative to professional veterinary care if your pups’ doc says it’s necessary.



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