5 Best Dog Foods for Teeth & Dental Health 2020 — Reviews & Top Picks

Healthy Teeth Dog Food_Shutterstocl_David P BaileysDental problems are one of the most common health issues that dogs are likely to face, and many pooches find themselves with broken or missing teeth by the time they reach their golden years.

If that’s the case, then it may be time to switch to a specialized kibble designed to combat common oral hygiene issues. The foods shown in the reviews below have all been created for dogs with dental problems, and they can help clean your pup’s teeth and gums while they eat.

The kibbles on this list are the best dog food for teeth and will help keep your dog’s dental health in tip-top shape.


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Hill's Prescription Diet Dental Care Hill's Prescription Diet Dental Care
  • Special shape whisks away debris
  • Many antioxidants on ingredients list
  • Good for sensitive stomachs
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Hill's Science Diet Adult Oral Care Hill's Science Diet Adult Oral Care
  • Good value for the price
  • Loaded with omega fatty acids
  • Chicken is first ingredient
  • Third place
    Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free
  • High in protein
  • Uses high-quality fruits and veggies
  • Small and crunchy kibble
  • Premium Choice
    Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental
  • Has tea and marigold extract
  • Has omega fatty acids
  • Loaded with fiber
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Health Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Health
  • Proven to control tartar
  • chicken and chicken meal
  • Endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council
  • The 5 Best Dog Food for Teeth & Dental Health — Reviews 2020

    1. Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care Dry Dog Food — Best Overall

    Hill's Prescription Diet Dental Care

    You’ll need a doctor’s note to get it, but Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care is the best food that we’ve found for keeping your dog’s oral hygiene at its best.

    This food uses proprietary fiber-matrix technology to scrub your pup’s teeth and gumlines. It can help reduce plaque and tartar and even remove stains.

    The shape of the kibble helps clean your dog’s teeth as well. It gently removes any sort of buildup while they crunch it, so their teeth should actually be in better shape the more they eat (be sure to watch their waistline, though).

    The ingredients list is loaded with antioxidants as well, thanks to foods like soybean oil, pork fat, and the various vitamins that they’ve used to supplement it. It should also be gentle on your pup’s stomach, as brewer’s rice is the first ingredient.

    The rest of the foods on the list don’t inspire much confidence, though. They include suspect foods like corn, chicken by-product meal, and artificial flavors. This isn’t the best food you can feed your dog by a long shot — but it is probably the best for their teeth, which is the focus of this list.

    If your dog has dental issues, you won’t do better than feeding them Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care, which is why it earns the top spot here.

    Pros
    • Uses proprietary fiber-matrix technology to clean teeth
    • Special shape whisks away debris
    • Many antioxidants on ingredients list
    • Good for sensitive stomachs
    Cons
    • Uses substandard ingredients like animal by-products

    2. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care Dry Dog Food — Best Value

    Hill's Science Diet Adult Oral Care

    Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care is basically a non-prescription version of our top choice, so while it’s not quite as good, it is quite a bit cheaper. We’d go so far as to call it the best dog food for teeth and dental health for the money.

    It uses the same fiber-matrix technology to clean your dog’s mouth, doing everything from scrubbing teeth to freshening breath. However, it has a slightly better ingredients list, as chicken is the first ingredient rather than rice.

    You’ll also find plenty of omega fatty acids inside, thanks to foods like fish oil, soybean oil, and pork fat. That will help your dog’s immune system and brain health, as well as their oral hygiene.

    It still has plenty of questionable ingredients, though — more than the prescription stuff, in fact. You’ll find wheat, corn, gluten, and more in here, so it may not be ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs. It also has more salt than we’d like to see.

    If you’re on a budget and want to keep your dog’s teeth clean, then Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care is an excellent choice. It’s not quite up to the same level as our top choice, but it’s a great value nonetheless.

    Pros
    • Good value for the price
    • Uses fiber-matrix technology to clean teeth
    • Loaded with omega fatty acids
    • Chicken is first ingredient
    Cons
    • Filled with questionable ingredients
    • High in salt

    3. Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

    Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free

    Merrick Lil’ Plates is the best overall food on this list, but it’s not quite as good at rescuing dreadful oral situations as some of the other foods on this list, which is why it only earns the bronze.

    It’s a grain-free recipe, making it an excellent choice for dogs with food allergies. It’s absolutely stacked with protein at 38%, although some of that does come from plants, which are harder for your dog to synthesize than animal proteins.

    There’s still plenty of meat in here, though, thanks to ingredients like chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal. They’ve also added high-quality fruits and veggies like blueberries, apples, and sweet potatoes.

    The kibble itself is small and crunchy, so any dog should be able to wrap their jaws around it. As soon as they do, it will scrub their gums and teeth clean.

    It’s expensive, though, and there’s not much fiber inside (a mere 3.5%).

    If you can afford it, Merrick Lil’ Plates is an excellent food for any dog, but the kibble’s shape and texture make it an especially good choice for animals that need a little help with oral hygiene.

    Pros
    • Grain-free recipe is good for dogs with food allergies
    • High in protein
    • Uses high-quality fruits and veggies
    • Small and crunchy kibble
    Cons
    • On the pricey side
    • Limited amount of fiber
    • Doesn’t clean teeth as well as our top choices

    4. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental Dry Dog Food — Premium Choice

    Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental Health

    Like our top pick, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental requires a vet’s prescription. However, it doesn’t have the special structure that Hill’s Prescription Diet does, and its ingredients list can’t match Merrick Lil’ Plates.

    Still, it does create a gentle abrasive effect on teeth while chewing, which can help dislodge plaque, tartar, and other buildup. It also includes ingredients like tea and marigold extract to fight bacteria.

    The food is packed with omega fatty acids as well, as it includes fish oil, chicken fat, and vegetable oil. We also like how it’s packed with fiber at 6.5%.

    Our main issues with this food include that it’s packed with salt and cheap fillers like wheat, corn, and animal by-products.

    The protein levels are on the lower end of average at 23%, but that’s not surprising, given that the ingredients list is heavier on grains than meat.

    Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental is a good-but-not-great option for dogs with dental issues, but we can’t recommend it for any other pups.

    Pros
    • Has tea and marigold extract to fight bacteria
    • Has omega fatty acids
    • Loaded with fiber
    Cons
    • Full of sodium
    • Uses cheap fillers
    • Protein levels on low end of average

    5. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Health Dry Dog Food

    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Health

    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Health is yet another prescription-only food, but this one is cheaper than the other two on this list.

    The ingredients list starts well with chicken and chicken meal, but after that, it takes a bit of a plunge. Most of the following ingredients are some form of corn, wheat, or gluten, all of which will add empty calories to your dog’s diet.

    It’s endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which means that it’s been shown to reduce tartar. However, it may not be as effective at stopping plaque, as its round shape isn’t likely to dig into crevices around the gums.

    The kibble pieces are extremely big as well, so they’re not ideal for smaller breeds. Dogs with missing or broken teeth may have difficulty breaking it down as well.

    Overall, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Health is one of the best foods you can buy for dogs with dental issues. However, when stacked up next to the cream of the crop, its shortcomings come into stark relief.

    Pros
    • Proven to control tartar
    • chicken meal are first ingredients
    Cons
    • Filled with empty calories
    • May not be ideal for stopping plaque
    • Not good for small breeds
    • Large pieces may be hard for dogs with broken or missing teeth to crunch

    Buyer’s Guide

    The thought of having to buy a special food for your dog’s dental health may not be something that ever crossed your mind, so you might have more questions than answers when it’s time to go shopping.

    This guide will fill you in on everything you need to know about canine dental health, so you can be certain to buy a food that will keep your pup’s teeth in fine working condition.

    How Will I Know If My Dog Needs a Special Food for Their Teeth?

    In most cases, your vet will tell you. However, if you’re concerned about your dog’s teeth, these signs can indicate that something is amiss:

    • Broken, loose, or missing teeth
    • Bad breath
    • Bleeding gums
    • Stained teeth
    • Pain or swelling around the mouth
    • Refusal to eat
    • Excessive drooling
    • Dropping food or difficulty chewing
    • Pawing at the mouth
    • Growths inside the mouth

    Of course, if you notice any of these things, you should talk to your vet before you do anything. They could be the signs of something serious — and those are issues that dog food can’t help.

    What Things Should I Consider When Buying a Food for My Dog’s Dental Health?

    The first thing you should know is that when it comes to cleaning teeth, kibble reigns supreme.

    You can still feed your dog wet food if you like, but the abrasiveness of kibble helps scrape away plaque, tartar, and other gunk from your dog’s teeth while they chew. Of course, you may need to feed them wet food if they’ve already lost all their teeth.

    A good kibble doesn’t just limit itself to what happens in your pup’s mouth, though. Many are also filled with nutrients that boost your dog’s immune system, helping to fight off the bacteria that cause gum disease.

    Quality kibbles are also short on ingredients that can exacerbate dental problems. These include simple carbs and sugars, both of which tend to leave a film on your dog’s teeth, ultimately increasing plaque and tartar buildup.

    Pay attention to the size and shape of the pieces as well. The kibble won’t do any good if it’s too big for your dog to crunch, but you don’t want pieces that are so small that they pose a choking hazard. Look for a happy medium between the two.

    Is That All I Should Look For?

    No, you still need to buy a good overall food. Don’t neglect your dog’s nutrition in the quest to cure their dental woes. You’ll still need to read labels and compare ingredients.

    Typically, we recommend kibbles that are high in protein, fat, and fiber. We also like to avoid questionable ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, or animal by-products, as these can all have unwanted side effects.

    As a general rule, if you wouldn’t eat the foods on the label, you shouldn’t feed them to your dog either. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s always a good sign to see ingredients like real chicken, blueberries, spinach, kale, or broccoli.

    If I Buy the Right Dog Food, Will I Still Need to Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

    Yes. A good kibble is just a tool in your bag, but it’s not enough to get the job done on its own.

    The fact is, even the best kibble will only remove the topmost layer of plaque from your dog’s teeth. That’s good for preventing future problems, but it does little to attack the tartar and bacteria around the gumline — and that’s where the real trouble lies.

    You’ll still need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly — every day, if possible. Also, schedule regular cleanings with your vet to ensure that everything stays in fine working order.

    A good kibble is essential but it’s not a miracle worker.

    Is There Anything Else That Can Help Clean My Dog’s Teeth?

    Yes. Bones and chews are both effective at scraping off the gunk that forms on your dog’s teeth. The longer it takes your dog to gnaw on them, the more good they’ll do.

    Look for raw, meaty bones. These are traditionally made from beef bones, and they come in an assortment of shapes and sizes. It’s important that they’re raw too, as cooked bones are more likely to splinter, and that can cause serious damage to your dog’s digestive tract if they’re swallowed.

    You’ll need to monitor your dog while they have the bones, and make sure they’re gnawing on them instead of trying to crunch them with their back teeth, as that can cause the molars to crack or break.

    Dog Healthy Teeth_Shutterstock_Lucia Romero
    Image Credit: Lucia Romero, Shutterstock

    Some of the Best Foods Are Prescription-Only. Why Is That?

    The short answer is money. Many food manufacturers spend a great deal of money on research and development, as they have to make sure their recipes are suitable for animals with whatever disease they’re intended to help.

    The manufacturers want to recoup their sizable investment, so they partner with vets to encourage owners to buy their special foods. Requiring a prescription is a great way to force owners to commit to the kibble, and it also gives their food more cachet than a regular kibble.

    The fact is, there aren’t any special ingredients in prescription foods that you can’t find in regular kibbles. You’ll find the same meats, grains, and veggies in the prescription bags that you’ll find in the over-the-counter stuff.

    However, in order to claim that their food treats a certain disease, the FDA requires the company to provide proof. So, you can rest assured that there is at least some evidence that prescription foods do what they say that they’ll do.

    It’s certainly easier to just buy the prescription food, but if you’d rather go a different route, you can investigate what it is about that food that makes it effective. It could be the shape of the kibble, the ingredients, or something else entirely. Once you find out, it’s simply a matter of finding a regular kibble that can replicate its effects.

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    Conclusion

    Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care uses special fiber-matrix technology to scrub teeth, allowing it to clear away more gunk and grime than just about any other food on the market. It’s the clear pick for our top spot.

    If you want something less pricey, though, go with Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care. It’s the non-prescription version of our winner, and it offers most of the same benefits at a fraction of the price.

    Finding a good kibble is essential for maintaining your dog’s mental health, and the decision becomes even more vital if your dog has suffered from oral issues. Hopefully, our reviews will make it easier for you to find the perfect food to keep your dog’s chompers in mint condition — saving you both undue pain and suffering.


    Featured Image Credit: David P Baileys, Shutterstock