Periodontal disease is the most common health problem in adult dogs, often setting in by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental College website. It starts with gingivitis, a reversible condition caused by bacteria accumulation under the gums. Unchecked, it progresses to irreversible periodontitis, whereby the infection spreads to the roots of teeth. Different types of canine dental aids are available, some of which are beneficial parts of an effective oral hygiene regimen for your pet.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
The best dental aids for your dog are a canine toothbrush and toothpaste. It's best to brush your dog's teeth and gums daily, especially if she's a flat-faced, stub-nosed breed. If you can't get it done every day, shoot for at least several times per week. Ask your vet for product recommendations; you may have to try a few flavors before finding one your dog likes. Ask for a demonstration on proper brushing technique, too. Introduce your dog to brushing with short, incomplete sessions at first, building up as she becomes more accustomed to it. Also, ask your vet if an oral wash or rinse is a good idea, especially if you don't brush daily.
Some dry dog foods tout their ability to protect or enhance your dog's oral health. The morsels are generally pointed shapes like triangles or stars and have abrasive surface texture, all to help scrape food and plaque away as your dog chews. Dry food in general is more dental-health-friendly than canned food, which is more prone to getting stuck on teeth and gums. While dental kibbles can contribute to a cleaner mouth, they are by no means thorough or a substitute for brushing. Ask your vet for product suggestions.
Dental Treats and Chews
Dental aids in the forms of treats and chews are available. They work like dental kibble, scraping bits of food and plaque off the teeth and gums while your dog gnaws on them. These can be effective but also aren't a substitute for frequent brushing. Look for low-calorie products that keep your dog chewing for a good amount of time; if she just swallows them or barely gives them a few chomps, they don't have a chance to do what they're supposed to do.
Other Dental Aids
Various other edible products out there call themselves dental aids, though some are more deserving of the claim than others. For example, among various types of bones, rawhide and pig ears whose texture may remove food and plaque, many are too hard for dogs whose teeth and gums are already diseased; they can be painful to gnaw on or can even break teeth. Pig ears, though often marketed as dental aids, haven't been shown to provide dental benefits, and they pose risks associated with bacterial contamination, as WebMD points out. Hard chew items can splinter or break, causing mouth injuries, posing choking hazards and risking internal injuries or intestinal obstructions. Nonedible chew toys are options, even preferred for dogs who chew through edible objects quickly. Your vet can recommend a product.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.