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The Role of Oral Health Supplements for Dogs

The Role of Oral Health Supplements for Dogs

When discussing oral hygiene it is important to keep some terminology in mind. Plaque is the name of the bacterial biofilm that can form on teeth, while tartar is the hard mineralized aggregate that accumulates on teeth over time. Tartar requires plaque to form.


How to prevent plaque and tartar for my dog?

The best way to reduce plaque buildup and prevent tartar is to brush teeth! However, once tartar accumulates, it cannot be removed by brushing and requires scaling. It is important to be aware that dental health isn’t just about cosmetics – of course we all love a perfect pearly white smile, but periodontal health is more than just for looks, it’s about comfort and long-term health as well. Not only is periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums due to poor dental hygiene) painful locally and the leading cause of tooth decay and loss in dogs, but it also threatens their systemic health. Bacteria accumulating in plaque on teeth can lead to systemic inflammation and have been associated with kidney and heart disease – two of the most common chronic diseases in dogs (Kouki, Papadimitriou, Kazakos, Savas, & Bitchava, 2013; Polkowska et al., 2018). 



Like humans, brushing is only part of the picture for dogs. While we can use mouth wash to help maintain our oral hygiene between brushing, that’s harder to do with dogs (they aren’t very good at gargling!).

Dental Supplements

Dental supplements can be a great option here, and are particularly important for dogs for whom other forms of oral hygiene, like hard dental chews, may not be appropriate. For example, small puppies with sensitive mouths and a combination of deciduous (“baby teeth”) and permanent teeth may not be able to properly chew hard products. The same goes for senior dogs who may be missing teeth or who have painful teeth but cannot undergo dental procedures due to other conditions. There are three main ways that dental supplements can impact oral hygiene: reduce plaque-forming bacteria, reduce tartar compounds, and freshen the breath.   

Physical tooth cleaning for dogs

Physical abrasion can also help to remove forming plaque from the teeth. With a soft chewy supplement, this can be achieved with the inclusion of natural zeolites, a crystalline mineral compound that cleanse the teeth (Ha et al., 2013; Hertzenberg & Dent, 1985). This acts to remove accumulated plaque before it can be mineralized into tartar. 


What are the benefits of dental supplements?

Inhibition of bacteria

The first step of periodontal disease is accumulation of bacteria on teeth. In addition to tasting and smelling nice and fresh, the herbs parsley and cinnamon have antibacterial properties shown to inhibit bacterial growth, specifically for organisms associated with dental disease (Alshahrani & Gregory, 2020; Wong & Kitts, 2006), while green tea extract and Ascophyllum nodosum (kelp) have antibacterial properties and has been demonstrated to specifically reduce bacteria that cause gingival inflammation and reduce plaque and tartar accumulation in dogs (Gawor, Jank, Jodkowska, Klim, & Svensson, 2018; Isogai et al., 1995). Most beneficially, green tea extract inhibits the formation of biofilm, aka plaque, on the tooth surface (Bai et al., 2016). Plant-based enzymes are another natural antibacterial compound that can break down and inhibit bacterial proliferation in the mouth (Pleszczyńska, Wiater, & Bachanek, 2016).

Breath freshening

Not only does green tea extract reduce bacteria in the mouth, it also inhibits saliva putrefaction and reduces oral malodor (Lodhia et al., 2008). The result is less offensive doggy breath and a more smoochable snout!


Oral hygiene is as important for dogs as it is for humans. Safeguarding our canine companions’ health and wellbeing includes proactive dental care. If oral health is neglected, they may require veterinary dental procedures which have their associated risks and benefits. Brushing teeth and offering dental supplements regularly are a safe and natural way to maintain oral health in dogs. If your dog has a particular challenge, always discuss with your veterinarian to determine what strategies there are to help them thrive.


Alshahrani, A., & Gregory, R. (2020). In vitro Cariostatic effects of cinnamon water extract on nicotine-induced Streptococcus mutans biofilm. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 20(45). doi:10.1186/s12906-020-2840-x

Bai, L., Takagi, S., Ando, T., Yoneyama, H., Ito, K., Mizugai, H., & Isogai, E. (2016). Antimicrobial activity of tea catechin against canine oral bacteria and the functional mechanisms. Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Science, 78(9), 1439-1445. 

Gawor, J., Jank, M., Jodkowska, K., Klim, E., & Svensson, U. (2018). Effects of Edible Treats Containing Ascophyllum nodosum on the Oral Health of Dogs: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Single-Center Study. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. doi:10.3389/fvets.2018.00168

Ha, W.-H., Ahn, J.-H., You, A.-R., Kim, J.-H., Cho, M.-J., & Shin, S.-C. (2013). The Interdental Cleansing, Stain Removing and Calculus Deposit Inhibition Effect of Toothpaste Containing Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate and Soft Granule (Zeolite-M). International Journal of Clinical Preventive Dentistry, 9(4), 199-206. 

Hertzenberg, E., & Dent, A. (1985). Zeolites NaHA and CaHA as toothpaste abrasives. Studies in Surface Science and Catalysis, 24, 589-596. 

Isogai, E., Isogai, H., Kimura, K., Nishikawa, T., Fijii, N., & Benno, Y. (1995). Effect of Japanese Green Tea Extract on Canine Periodontal Diseases. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 8(2), 57-61. 

Kouki, M., Papadimitriou, S., Kazakos, G., Savas, I., & Bitchava, D. (2013). Periodontal Disease as a Potential Factor for Systemic Inflammatory Response in the Dog. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, 30(1), 26-29. 

Lodhia, P., Yaegaki, K., Khakbaznejad, A., Imai, T., Sato, T., Tanaka, T., . . . T, K. (2008). Effects of green tea on volatile sulfur compounds in mouth air. Journal of Nutirtional Science and Vitaminology, 54, 89-94. 

Pleszczyńska, M., Wiater, A., & Bachanek, T. (2016). Enzymes in therapy of biofilm-related oral diseases. Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry, 64(3), 337-346. 

Polkowska, I., Sobczyńska-Rak, A., Szponder, T., Żylińska, B., Orzędała-Koszel, U., Capik, I., & Matuszewski, L. (2018). The Impact of Periodontal Disease on the Heart and Kidneys in Dogs. Kafkas Univ Vet Fak Derg, 24(5), 633-638. 

Wong, P., & Kitts, D. (2006). Studies on the dual antioxidant and antibacterial properties of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) extracts. Food Chemistry, 97, 505-515.