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The Truth About Dental Chews

The Truth About Dental Chews

Are dental chews your go-to treat for your dog? Whilst you might be thinking you are not only giving your pooch a tasty snack, but that you are also helping keep their gnashers clean, you could be mistaken. 

It’s important to realise that not all dental chews are created equal. We are all familiar with well-known brands, but does this mean because they are sold by reputable retailers that these chews are good for our dogs?


Many of the dental chews on the market contain poor quality ingredients that we don’t think you’ll be wanting to put in your dog’s tiny (or maybe not so tiny) tummies. These nasties include:

  • Animal By-products
  • Gelatin
  • Glycerine
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Powdered Cellulose

There is some frightening research linking common dental chew ingredients to serious health problems. For example, smoke flavouring has an alarming link to cancer. Tests carried out by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in 2011 on this flavouring state that “genotoxicity could not be ruled out”. 

Genotoxicity is defined as “a substance known to cause mutations which can result in cancer. Updated guidance has since been published in 2021 regarding the preparation of such flavourings(1).

Although approved for use in animal feed, iron oxide is another ingredient with known health contraindications, it is a skin and eye irritant which can cause lung inflammation (2). Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) can also be found in dental chews and is known as the ingredient that carries out the teeth cleaning – this ingredient is also found in household detergents and tanning agents! (3)


No chew should ever be used in place of toothbrushing. Your dog’s oral health hygiene should consist of daily brushing coupled with a dental exam and cleaning from your vet as needed. If you can’t maintain daily brushing, you should be looking to brush your dog’s teeth a minimum of 3 times per week. 

However, you can use dental chews if selected carefully to compliment your dog’s regime. Dental supplements such as powders or liquids can also complement a healthy oral routine. You can add these specially formulated supplements to your dogs food or water to clean and freshen your dog’s mouth.


There are so many dental chews on the market nowadays, it’s no wonder you might feel a little bewildered when you are looking at all the options. Let us give you some pointers on what to look out for.

  • Ingredients – Look for natural products such as bully braids or chicken feet. Avoid the ingredients we have listed above and don’t buy products that are high in preservatives or salt.
  • Size and shape – You want to be looking for something that mirrors the size of your dog’s head as a rule of thumb. If you have aggressive chewers, you’ll need something a little more durable.
  • Look for vet recommendations.


As we’ve already discussed, chews are not an alternative to brushing but they can be given on a regular basis to help to try to reduce plaque and tartar. It is recommended that your dog has something to chew for 30 minutes every day to help keep the plaque at bay, but we have detailed some alternative options below to help reduce the amount you are feeding.


There are many dental care alternatives available to you which will reduce the frequency with which you feed dental chews.

  • Brush your dog’s teeth regularly.
  • Feed your dog an appropriate diet.
  • Give your dog a 100% natural cotton rope toy – these have a rough texture and can help lift plaque away.
  • Give your dog a crunchy carrot to munch on – a carrot is a great low-calorie snack that is also good for the teeth.
  • Take your dog for annual dental check-ups with your vet.


1 - Smoke flavourings | EFSA (europa.eu)

2 - Safety and efficacy of iron oxide black, red and yellow for all animal species - - 2016 - EFSA Journal - Wiley Online Library

3 - Sodium tripolyphosphate | Na5P3O10 - PubChem (nih.gov)

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1 comment

  • My gorgeous 8 year old chocolate Labrador was seriously ill when he was younger and I’m sure it was due to him eating denture sticks.
    When we first got him at 18 months old we would give him a denture stick every night as a treat and to clean his teeth. He would scoff it in about 30 seconds, practically inhaling it! A few months down the line he became very poorly. Not eating( definitely a sign something is seriously wrong when a Lab won’t eat!) He was trying to vomit even though there was nothing left to come up. Took him to the vets who thought he had gastritis and to keep an eye on him and if no better to bring him back to see him after 24 hours. My dog was so poorly we really thought we were going to lose him. Took him back to the vets and they performed emergency surgery as he had a twisted intestine, which is very serious and dogs can die if they are not treated quickly enough.
    After surgery the vet told us that inside his stomach there was a lot of gunk. This got me thinking what has my dog been eating! Thankfully my dog survived.
    I’m absolutely convinced that the denture stick was the cause of his twisted intestine. I placed one of the sticks in a glass of cola overnight to see if it would break down.
    The next morning the stick hadn’t altered one bit, still as firm as the previous night.
    I contacted the supplier to ask them to put a warning on the packaging to let dog owners know that if their dog doesn’t actually chew the stick then do not give it to them. They haven’t taken any notice and said to me that their product has been tested and denied any problems.
    Please, please be careful when feeding your dog the really hard, rubbery denture stick made by a very well known supplier.
    We give our dog carrots for his teeth now and I brush them every night.

    Angie Johnston on

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