Five of the Best Toys for Cleaning Your Dog's Teeth
An expert veterinary dentistry weighs in on these picks.
Whether you're a dog or human, a visit to the dentist is never a fun time. Brushing your pup's teeth as often as possible is essential to preventing dental disease, but toys can also do a lot to help. "Really, what is important is the physical removal of that soft plaque layer off the surface of the tooth before it hardens into calculus," says Dr. Naomi Hoyer, an assistant professor of veterinary dentistry and oral surgery at Colorado State University. While it is not as effective as actually brushing their teeth, chew toys help rub off some of that soft plaque.
That's not to say that all toys are good for a dog's teeth—some of them can actually be quite harmful. Anything that is hard enough that you can't indent the toy with your thumb is probably too hard and can cause tooth fractures. Hoyer specifically cautions against antlers and animal bones. "Despite the fact that dogs love to chew on them, they very frequently result in tooth fracture," she says.
With its wild popularity among dog owners and vets, it's likely no surprise to see Kong on this list. The hard rubber is the perfect material for plaque removal: It's soft enough that dogs who really dig their teeth into a toy won't be able to break it down into small pieces and swallow them, but it's not so hard that it'll break their teeth. The company sells three toys—Kong Dental, Kong Dental Stick, and Kong Dental with Rope (pictured, $20, chewy.com)—specifically marketed for cleaning teeth, but Hoyer says that all shapes and sizes will help. Most of these toys can be stuffed in order to encourage more aggressive chewing which helps both with cleaning their teeth and relieving mental energy.
If your dog can destroy just about anything, check out the GoughNut ($21, chewy.com). This ring of reinforced rubber allows them to sink their teeth in without tearing. If your tough pup is able to rip through to the red interior safety ring, the company promises to replace it with a new one.
Nylabone's chew toys are well known for standing up to especially rough treatment. Hoyer says some of them are a bit too hard for her liking but says that, as long as they pass the thumb test, they're great. The Daily Dental Durable Bear ($5, menards.com) is specifically designed for cleaning teeth. The textured surface helps scrub their teeth and the beef flavor encourages aggressive chewing.
Arm & Hammer Super Treadz Gorilla
This baking soda infused toy removes plaque, freshens bad breath, and keeps dogs entertained for hours: The treat dispenser at the bottom of the toy will encourage them to really dig in so that their teeth get a thorough scrub down. If all that's not enough, the Arm & Hammer Super Treadz Gorilla ($11, chewy.com) is dishwasher-friendly, so that playtime can always be germ-free.
Booda Fresh N Floss
You might find flossing to be a pain, but your pet won't when they get ahold of the Booda Fresh N Floss Tug Rope ($10, chewy.com). It's made with mint-scented floss and baking soda so, in addition to rubbing off some of that plaque, the toy will also help to freshen up their breath a bit. You'll be glad they have it when they're covering you in slobbery kisses.