Canine Dental Disease & Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Clean for Real

There’s a myth that kibble and hard green sticks clean your dog’s teeth. In reality, these foods may be the top contributors to canine dental disease.

There are several causes of dental disease that pet owners need to be aware of. These include diet, lack of dental care, breed genetics, inflammation, infections, and medications.

We’ll take a look at the top four contributors to canine dental disease.


#1: Kibble Diets

Surprised? The myth that kibble cleans your dog’s teeth got pretty popular and it’s easy to see why: kibble is cheap, easy to feed, easy to store, widely available, and therefore the top-selling feed for dogs. Don’t you want to be told your dog food cleans your dog’s teeth?

“According to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), they estimate that 90% of pets over 2 years old have significant mouth disease and of that 90%, 50% require immediate attention.”

The truth is that there is no way dead, inert foods can clean your dog’s teeth. Instead, they are much more likely to feed the growth of bacterial invaders and leave plaque to harden on the teeth.

So, how does kibble cause dental disease? Won’t crunching those pieces scrape plaque off the teeth? Consider these two aspects of kibble diets:

  1. Kibble is dead food; it contains no enzymes to break down food particles,
  2. And it is starch-laden, these sugars stick to the teeth.

Unfortunately, this pet food myth may be the cause of much distress in our pet’s health. Dental diseases affect many other parts of the body and may be the instigation of liver, heart, and kidney diseases, as well as autoimmune diseases.

“The truth is, dry food causes dental decay.” – Judy Morgan, DVM.

In this video, Dr. Tom Lonsdale took four raw-fed dogs and switched them to a diet of Science Diet Veterinary Kibble Diet for just 17 days. His goal was to see how quickly their dental health would decline.


Wondering about veterinary dental diets? Check out Rodney Habib’s article “Can Kibble Brush or Clean Your Pet’s Teeth for Real?” for a great evaluation of a dental diet.



#2: Dental Chews

The second contributor to canine dental disease might also surprise you. Aren’t dental chews with their ridges, spirals, and grooves supposed to clean your dog’s teeth?

Despite a rise in dental products from several major pet food companies in recent years, dental disease in dogs has increased.

Like with kibble, these “hard green sticks” contain significant amounts of starchy grains and sugary flavorings. These sugars stick to the teeth, and the lack of enzymes and moisture prevent them from being rubbed off, so they feed bacterial growth.

Dental care products also contain preservatives and color dyes that are known to cause cancer and nervous system disorders. Preservatives may include BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and Propyl Gallate. Food dyes include FD&C Red, and various names for yellow and blue to create those natural-looking green bones.

While the FDA rates the preservatives BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and Propyl gallate, as “GRAS” or “generally recognized as safe” at low doses, pet owners may not be aware that long-term use negates this safety rating.

“The problem is that pets are often fed the same processed food and treats day in and day out for months, years, or a lifetime. This can result in cumulative exposure to substances known to cause cancer.” – Dr. Karen Becker

Dr. Becker advises all pet owners to avoid giving their dogs products with these preservatives completely, but especially on a regular basis.

To see Dr. Becker’s recommended alternative for dental care products check out her article “Steps to Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Healthy.”



#3: Breed Genetics

Did you know that some dogs have a predisposition to dental issues? Some have tooth placement issues, jaw structure problems that affect the teeth, and other mouth disorders that can be influenced by breed genetics.

Dr. Judy Morgan says:

“When we talk about genetics, some breeds are predisposed to dental issues. Here are some examples:


Another issue related to breeding genetics that contributes towards dental disease is the Chinese theory of “Jing.” According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, Jing is the life essence responsible for the formation of teeth, bones and the brain. A dental disorder might mean a Jing deficiency, and therefore a life-essence deficiency.

This may be due to: genetics, poor nutrition of the mother, immune system challenges (over-vaccination), vaccination during pregnancy, infection during pregnancy, medications given to a mother during pregnancy or to a puppy early in life (tetracycline, doxycycline, oxytetracycline, minocycline), infections or inflammation early in life.”

Breeders need to become aware that good breeding practices don’t just include testing the eyes, hips, and elbows anymore. Considering the dental health records of all dogs in the breeding program is also necessary to produce puppies that will develop and maintain healthy mouths. Then feeding those dogs and puppies diets that don’t cause dental disease is also a must.


#4: Lack of Dental Care

Let’s face it: How many of us pet owners can say we take the time each day, or even just several times a week, to brush our dog’s teeth? Probably, only a meager percentage of us can say that we do so.

The rest of us probably needed to know the information in this article to motivate us to that next level of commitment.

Truth be told, there is a lot of benefit to brushing your dog’s teeth and the idea isn’t that far fetched. For instance, if you snacked on a bag of chips before an important meeting, wouldn’t you brush your teeth before you left for that meeting? Of course! Otherwise, you would have bits of Doritos left in your teeth, would have bad breath, and maybe orange-looking teeth.

Just like those chips, kibble leaves little bits stuck in the teeth, it leaves sugars sticking to the teeth like the orange from the Doritos, and contributes to what is affectionately known as “doggy breath.”

Let’s take a look at how a dental disease develops in the dog’s mouth to better understand the benefit of brushing your dog’s teeth.



How Dental Disease Works

“Dental disease begins when bacteria turns into plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth. Minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into tartar which spreads under the gum line. Bacteria under the gum line secretes toxins which contribute to tissue damage.”

This proliferation of bacteria and secretion of toxins causes an immune response. When left untreated it creates chronic inflammation which will spread to affect organs in the body.

Dr Fox warns,

“Maintaining  pets’ dental hygiene, along with good nutrition – where highly processed pet food ingredients, especially corn and soy glutens, leave micro-particles adhering to the teeth and foster dental disease – prevents much animal suffering. Dental problems, closely related to diet, are very common in dogs and cats and are often left untreated for too long, causing much suffering and long crippling, even fatal illness. These include kidney, liver and heart disease secondary to periodontal disease.”

That’s right; dental disease can reach the heart, liver, and kidneys with its toxins.

In 2010 Dr. Larry Glickman examined the records of nearly 120,000 dogs to find a strong correlation between gum and heart disease.

So, in short, brushing your dog’s teeth rubs off the sugars, minerals, and bacteria that would create plaque and tartar. This prevents the bacteria from growing and secreting their toxins.

Using a natural homemade toothpaste using ingredients like coconut oil and baking soda can enhance the protective measure of brushing your dog’s teeth and really attack the bacteria.



Final Considerations

It is best to proactively feed your dog a diet that doesn’t contribute to plaque build-up, to feed recreational bones, and to brush his teeth.

Honestly, the best diet to promote a healthy mouth is a raw diet. Raw meats and veggies contain live enzymes (which kibble doesn’t) that break down the sugars and food particles that would otherwise harden on your dog’s teeth. Chewing on raw meaty bones is the equivalent of brushing your dog’s teeth.

With that said, there are many options that may appeal to your current situation with your dog. Here are some awesome tips from veterinarians:

Dr. Patricia Jordan’s article “10 Tips to Help Prevent and Treat Dental Disease in Dogs” has many excellent and natural suggestions for cleaning your dog’s teeth, healing his gums, and fighting bacterial growth!

To see holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker’s recommendations for keeping your dog’s teeth clean, check out her article “Steps to Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Healthy.”

Check out these Top 5 Foods For Your Dog’s Teeth” at

  1. Raw Meaty Bones

  2. Antioxidants

  3. Fatty Acids

  4. Probiotics

  5. & Biodent

The challenge now is not to find the truth about canine dental disease and the proper care of your dog’s teeth, but to apply the truth. Go for it!


For Satisfied Dogs!

– Cassy Kay




For further reading see our sources:

Dr. Becker. “Steps TO Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Healthy” April 26, 2017. Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Dr. Becker. “Before You Buy Pet Dental Treats, Read the Ingredient List” Feb. 24, 2016. Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Dr. Becker. “Dog’s Gum Disease May Lead To Heart Disease” Feb. 17, 2010. Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Kangas, Katie. “The Top 5 Foods For Your Dog’s Teeth” Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Morgan, Judy DVM. “Why It’s Important To Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Clean” Web. Oct. 12, 2018.

Jordan, Patricia DVM. “10 Tips To Help Prevent And Treat Dental Disease In Dogs” Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Scott, Dana. “The Disturbing Cause Of Dental Disease In Dogs” Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Peralta, Jessica. “Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy” Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Falconer, Will DVM. “Natural Dental Prevention: Common Sense In The Mouth” Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Habib, Rodney. “Does Dry, Crunchy Commercial Pet Food Actually Keep Your Pet’s Teeth Clean?” Web. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.

Habib, Rodney. “Can Kibble Brush or Clean Your Pet’s Teeth FOr Real?” Web. Oct. 12, 2018.


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