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Brushing a dogs teeth with toothbrush and dog toothpaste

The essentials

  • Teeth brushing is important — Brushing our pup’s teeth is about more than stinky breath. Proper dental hygiene is a health issue.
  • Toothpaste options abound — There’s a doggie toothpaste for everyone. Whether it’s paste, gel, traditional brush, or finger brush, there’s a good option for your pup.
  • Not all toothpaste is created equal— Products labeled organic and natural aren’t the best choice 100% of the time. The safest toothpastes are those that have been through clinical trials.

It’s easy to overlook oral health when it comes to your pets. But keeping your pup’s teeth clean impacts their overall health and wellness. An effective toothpaste removes plaque buildup that, if left unchecked, can cause several dental problems for your pup. To help you find the best toothpaste for your dog, our team of experts tested some of the top options on the market against the following criteria: ingredients, smell, consistency, and more.

Our top picks

Petsmile professional dog toothpaste is the only Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-accepted toothpaste on the market. It’s designed to fight plaque using ingredients often found in human toothpaste and even comes with a toothbrush. The only downside to this pick? Our product reviewer said the toothbrush this kit comes with was a bit large for her small-breed dog.

  • Ingredients. Petsmile uses a formula of human-grade ingredients including calprox, deionized water, glycerin, citric acid, dicalcium phosphate dihydrate, and cellulose gum that safely and effectively fight plaque.
  • Packaging. This option comes packaged in a cardboard box. The tube has a flip-top lid that’s easy to open and close.
  • Smell. While this paste is London Broil flavored, it doesn’t have a noticeable smell.
  • Palatability. Our dogs seemed to enjoy this toothpaste and its flavoring.
  • Consistency. The consistency was very similar to normal toothpaste and was easy to apply with the provided brush.

What our vet thinks

The reviews are positive and the ingredients are safe. But most important to Dr. Irish is that Petsmile professional dog toothpaste comes with the VOHC seal of approval. This means the product has been through at least two clinical trials and is proven to help prevent the formation of plaque and tartar.

Our gel pick 

This pick is a gel toothpaste that can be applied directly to your dog’s teeth. However, we recommend using it with a toothbrush to get all the benefits of brushing! It’s scentless and odorless, so even picky pups shouldn’t have issues with the flavor. It’s also safe and effective for use on dogs of all breeds and sizes.

  • Ingredients. The ingredients in this pick include aloe vera, dextrose, and glycerol methacrylate — all of which are 100% safe for both dogs and cats.
  • Packaging. With an easy-to-open twist lid, the gel comes out smoothly from the tube.
  • Smell. This gel is odorless, so your dog shouldn’t be bothered by its scent.
  • Palatability. Our dog didn’t seem to mind the taste of this toothpaste.
  • Consistency. The consistency of this option was smoother than some of the other pastes we tested and was easy to spread onto our dog’s front teeth.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish pointed out that Pet King Brands also make Zymox, a top-rated ear treatment product. This toothpaste includes safe and effective ingredients, so she feels confident that it wouldn’t hurt to try it.

Best flavor

With beef, poultry, and vanilla mint to choose from, there’s a flavor of Virbac’s toothpaste for every kind of pup. The consistency is a bit more gel-like than some of the other options we tested, but we love that this non-foaming pick is completely safe for pets to swallow. It’s also formulated with enzymes that help reduce plaque and freshen your dog’s breath.

  • Ingredients. Virbac uses dog- and cat-friendly ingredients like sorbitol, hydrated silica, glycerin, water, dextrose, and added flavor.
  • Packaging. This toothpaste arrives in a cardboard box. Much like human toothpaste options, the tube has a twist-top cap.
  • Smell. The scent of the beef option we tested was hardly noticeable.
  • Palatability. Our pup found the beef-flavored option to be very palatable!
  • Consistency. With its smooth texture, this toothpaste is easy to apply. Just be careful since it comes out of the tube quickly!

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish has used this toothpaste on her own dogs, so she can attest to its safety and effectiveness firsthand!

Tough on plaque

Vet’s Best is another enzymatic toothpaste that’s applied with a toothbrush or finger. The company recommends using this product two to three times a week, which is great for busy pet parents. You can even put a dab of this paste directly on your pup’s tongue to quickly freshen their breath!

  • Ingredients. Baking soda, which is often used in human toothpaste as a whitening agent, is among ingredients like glycerin, aloe, neem oil, and grapefruit seed extract.
  • Packaging. The tube has a flip-top lid that’s very easy to open and close.
  • Smell. There’s no noticeable scent to this toothpaste.
  • Palatability. This paste is advertised as grape flavored, likely because of the grapefruit seed extract. Our dogs seemed to enjoy it!
  • Consistency. The consistency of this option is a happy medium between a gel and a paste.

What our vet thinks

After seeing a few negative reviews regarding this product, Dr. Irish took a closer look at the ingredient list. Neem oil and aloe are both safe ingredients, however, she can’t say definitively that they’re effective at cleaning teeth. Not to mention that the idea of flavoring anything grape for dogs seems odd, since just a few grapes can kill them.

Best for finger brushing

Using your finger as a brush is a great option for pet owners who are new to brushing their dog’s teeth. The one included in this kit from Vet Solutions slips easily over your finger and provides maximum control as you brush your pup’s teeth and gums. It should be noted that this toothpaste comes in a 0.75-ounce tube, which is less product than some other options we reviewed. However, a little goes a long way — vets recommend using only a pea-sized amount.

  • Ingredients. Like some of the other toothpaste we reviewed, this formula uses enzymes and other safe ingredients . Among them are poultry extract, water, cellulose gum, and vitamin E.
  • Packaging. This toothpaste tube comes packaged in a cardboard box with a twist-off lid.
  • Smell. This paste has a slight smell, probably due to the poultry extract.
  • Palatability. Our dog seemed to enjoy the taste of this toothpaste. They tried to lick it before we even started brushing!
  • Consistency. This paste has a smooth consistency that’s very spreadable.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish has first-hand experience with this toothpaste and speaks highly of the safety and effectiveness of its ingredients. She would recommend this product to pet parents.

Best organic dog toothpaste

In today’s market,  manufacturers can use terms like “natural” and “organic” without being able to truly back up the claim. As the name suggests, Radius USDA organic dog toothpaste is USDA certified so pup parents can trust that it’s truly organic.  This gel paste is formulated to help fight bacteria and serve as a natural teeth whitener without the use of any additives or chemicals. Many reviewers mention that their dog enjoys the taste. Dog owners who are concerned with what ingredients are going in (and with keeping others out) will appreciate that this option is made without xylitol, chemicals, preservatives, dyes, pesticides, GMOs, gluten, fluoride, or sweeteners.

  • Ingredients. This certified organic gel utilizes coconut oil and cinnamon to fight bacteria. Sweet potato powder helps add to the flavor, and peppermint indian leaf oil delivers cool, fresh breath.
  • Packaging. This travel sized toothpaste tube comes packaged in a cardboard box and has a pop-cap.
  • Smell. The predominant smell is cinnamon, with a hint of mint.
  • Palatability. Dogs seem to love the taste of the cinnamon and sweet potato, although some pup parents report their pup is more accustomed to a poultry flavor which you won’t find here.
  • Consistency. This is a gel toothpaste that only calls for a pea sized amount.

What our vet thinks

Our vet cautions against opting for all-natural or organic options that lack proven efficiency, adding that any toothpaste backed by clinical trials is best. Dog owners who are set on using organic should choose a USDA organic brand, like RADIUS.

Best dog dental care finger wipes

Dechra Vetradent Dental Wipes for dogs utilizes Biotrate Technology to break through the biofilm in your dog’s mouth, altering the environment to reduce bacteria. The wipes are completely neutral as far as taste or smell and can be used on your pup’s teeth and gums. By cutting down on bacteria, dog owners help prevent tartar and plaque from forming which is responsible for most bad breath. Reviewers note that their dog tolerates the wipe down well and that using only a wipe and your finger make brushing easier (so it gets done more often).

  • Ingredients. Zinc chloride targets bad breath and citric acid works to maintain the natural pH balance in your dog’s mouth.
  • Packaging. The wipes come in a plastic tube with a pop cap opening to pull individual wipes out.
  • Smell. Dechra Vetradent is odorless, tasteless and colorless.
  • Palatability. The wipes are neutral in smell and taste so dog’s just have to get used to having their teeth and gums wiped out.
  • Consistency. The consistency is slightly coarse and can be compared to acne wipes.

What our vet thinks

These get a thumbs up because they’ve been through at least two clinical trials to prove their effectiveness at preventing plaque and tartar formation. Dr. Irish recommends that dog owners always look for tested products with dependable claims.

Best dog dental flakes

Ceva Clenz-a-dent ProDen Plaque Off flakes is VOHC approved for maintaining clean teeth and fresh breath. Pet parents will enjoy the ease of sprinkling the flakes over their dog’s wet or dry food and reaping the benefits in a short period of time. With consistent use, dog’s teeth will improve within three to eight weeks, based on clinical trials. The flakes produce more than just nice breath; they’re effective in reducing tartar and plaque as well.

  • Packaging. The dental powder comes in a plastic vitamin bottle with a safety twist top.
  • Smell. Despite the seaweed flavor, the flakes don’t produce any strong smell.
  • Palatability. The seaweed flavor of these flakes doesn’t seem to bother most pets. The majority of reviewers report their pets eat their food just fine with this product sprinkled on top.
  • Consistency. Light, powdery flakes sprinkle easily across dog food.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish recommends the Ceva brand specifically for its reputability. Any product that is VOHC approved means they’re doing something right!

Our research process

Why you should trust our reviews

  • Dr. Erica Irish helped us formulate this list — Using her knowledge and first-hand experience of pet oral health, our veterinarian reviewed each and every product on our list. She ranked her favorites and made note of her likes and dislikes for each product.
  • We ordered and paid for these products — None of the toothpastes we reviewed were sponsored or gifted to us. We used our own resources to purchase these products so we could review them objectively.
  • We sent them off with our product researcher to test in the field — Once we got the OK from our vet, we shipped each of these toothpastes to our product review expert Christy Caplan, a certified veterinary technician.
  • We trialed and tested these products — Christy tested each product on her own dog and rated each option according to our review criteria.

How we picked 

We scoured the internet for the most popular dog toothpastes on the market. We avoided any toothpaste with questionable or potentially toxic ingredients. Our experts then chose a “top pick,” the product that ranked the highest in all of our criteria.

Sometimes once we review a product in person, we decide we don’t want to recommend it to pet parents. Some popular products didn’t make our list, and we think it’s important for pet parents to know why.

At first glance

On paper, here’s a closer look at how the products stack up against each other.

Product Flavor Price
PetSmile Toothpaste London Broil $15.00
Oratene gel None $14.99
Virbac gel toothpaste Beef, poultry, seafood or vanilla mint $10.92
Vet’s Best toothpaste Grape $9.99
Vetoquinol fingerbrushing kit Poultry $10.49
Radius organic toothpaste Cinnamon sweet potato $12.98
Dechra Vetradent Wipes Tasteless $30.49
Ceva Proden Plaque-off Flakes Seaweed $30.26

*Price at the time of our review

How we tested these products

Testing best dog toothpastes

Our tester pup patiently waits to try out one of our picks.

We worked with our product experts and veterinarians to determine the most important factors when it comes to finding the best dog toothpaste. We used the following criteria to review each product.

  • Ingredients. Dr. Irish and our team reviewed the full ingredient list on each product to ensure our picks were safe and nontoxic.
  • Packaging. We considered how easy each product was to open and close.
  • Smell. Dogs have a heightened sense of smell, so this is an important factor to consider when choosing a toothpaste.
  • Palatability. We used the products on our own dogs and noted how they reacted to the flavor of each toothpaste.
  • Consistency. Getting our hands on these products allowed us to see each toothpaste up close and compare their consistency. This factor can also affect how easy or difficult the product is to spread on a toothbrush.

What else should pet parents consider?

Does your dog need toothpaste?

Yes, oral hygiene is important to your dog’s overall health. According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA), over 80% of dogs over the age of 3 have active dental disease . This issue often starts as gingivitis, which can be treated by consistently brushing your dog’s teeth and removing any plaque buildup.

The benefits of doggie toothpaste

80% of teeth brushing benefits come from the act of brushing itself. But a toothpaste your dog enjoys the flavor of can certainly help make brushing less of a chore. And many toothpastes contain ingredients that help to fight plaque and tartar. Enzymatic toothpastes contain enzymes that fight bacteria and scrubbing ingredients like baking soda that work to remove plaque. They also alter your dog’s pH to make it harder for bacteria and plaque to form in their mouth.

Choosing the perfect toothpaste

There are many pet dental products on the market — and not all of them are as effective as they claim. That’s why our veterinarians recommend looking for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. The VOHC evaluates and reviews all kinds of health items for pets, including dental care products that are intended to fight plaque and tartar. Look for the seal on any dog health product before making a purchase.

According to Dr. Irish, “The most effective kinds of toothpaste will be the ones that are veterinary-approved or have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Approval. These are backed by clinical trials and the opinions of medical professionals.”

Ingredients to avoid

Never use human toothpaste on your dog — leave Arm & Hammer and Colgate to the humans. Fluoride is a common ingredient in human toothpaste that’s extremely dangerous for dogs.

Human options also often contain a harmful ingredient called xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s toxic to dogs. If consumed, your pet will need to be taken to the vet straight away for help. Xylitol can cause severe drops in blood sugar, which can result in seizures, lethargy, and liver failure.

The downlow on DIY toothpaste

Homemade dog toothpaste allows you to control and customize the ingredients, taste, and flavor. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly and economical approach, we’ve got you covered. Making toothpaste at home is perfectly safe — assuming you use the ingredients we recommend, like baking soda, olive oil, and parsley.

How often to brush your pup’s teeth

Vets recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily. If that’s not possible with your schedule, try weekly brushings. Regular brushing ensures your dog’s teeth stay fresh and healthy and helps prevent costly dental problems.

In addition, vets recommend that pups get annual teeth cleans by a professional. At these appointments, veterinarians may take X-rays to examine the health of your dog’s jaw and tooth roots below the gumline that can’t be observed otherwise. Vets will also do something called scaling, a process that removes dental plaque and tartar, both of which naturally build up over time.

How to brush your dog’s teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Though you need to be patient during the process, your dog will eventually grow accustomed to it — especially with treats and a little positive reinforcement. Brushing your dog’s teeth can even lead to a deeper canine-human bond, all while giving them clean teeth in the process.

Our step-by-step guide

Use the right tools — Always use a dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush. Using the right equipment will be more comfortable for both you and your pup.

Pick a flavor your pup will like — You’ll want to choose a pet toothpaste that freshens your dog’s breath, removes plaque, and has an appealing taste, like poultry or peanut butter.

Let your dog sniff the toothpaste first — You might also want to give your dog a small sample to taste. After giving them a minute to sniff the brush, gently moving it around their teeth and gums.

If your dog becomes agitated, stop and try again later — What’s most important is getting your dog accustomed to regular dental care. If your dog is extremely fearful or aggressive to the point of biting, you may want to see a veterinarian or behaviorist.

Go slow — Gently rub the toothbrush on your dog’s teeth and gums for at least 30 seconds. You can also allow your dog to lick the toothbrush afterward if they’re interested.

How to choose the perfect doggie toothbrush

There are two types of dog toothbrushes: handled brushes and finger brushes. Keep in mind that using a brush is always recommended, even when using a brushless paste. The act of brushing is what removes tartar buildup.

Finger brushes. These are small brushes that fit over your finger. The ability to come into direct contact with your pup’s teeth allows for greater control.

Long-handled brushes. These are most similar to human toothbrushes, though there are a few varieties. Double-ended toothbrushes have two ends of different sizes that are perfect for reaching incisors and molars. Double-headed dog toothbrushes clean both sides of your dog’s teeth at the same time. Long-handled brushes can make it easier to reach your dog’s back teeth, especially if you have a large dog.

We recommend trying different types of brushes to find what works best for you and your canine. The size and breed of your dog matters less than their personal preferences.

Keep in mind that you will need to reach the back of your dog’s jaw as you brush. You may want to opt for a soft bristled doggie toothbrush that will give your dog an efficient and gentle toothbrushing experience. Since human toothbrushes are shaped for our mouths, we don’t recommend using one on your dog.

Other products to try

Dental chews. You can give your dog dental chews in addition to daily brushing. Many options taste like a treat, so you pup will have no idea they’re eating something that’s cleaning the plaque off their teeth.

Dental water additives. Dental water additives are liquids that can be added to your dog’s water to clean and freshen their mouth. These are not replacements for daily toothbrushing but are helpful for fighting plaque and reducing tartar. Many dental water additives have ingredients like zinc chloride, citric acid, and sodium citrate that fight bad breath and prevent bacterial buildup.

Frequently asked questions

Which toothpaste is best for dogs?

Petsmile Professional Dog Teeth Brushing Kit is our top pick since it’s approved by our vet and the VOHC.

What’s the best thing to clean a dog’s teeth with?

Either a toothbrush or finger brush will work to remove plaque and food residue from your dog’s teeth.

What’s a good natural toothpaste for dogs?

You can easily make natural toothpaste at home using ingredients like baking soda and olive oil.

What’s the best way to brush my dog’s teeth?

It’s important to be patient when brushing your dog’s teeth. Introduce the toothpaste slowly, and reward them with treats!