Beyond Brushing: How Fresh Food Can Improve Your Dog’s Dental Health

A long-standing belief exists that dry kibble is the best food for dogs because it’s hard. The thinking goes, hard food will help clean teeth because it scrapes off plaque. While that’s kind of true, it’s a negligible amount. That belief has been challenged increasingly in recent years, and for good reason. That would be like saying you can ditch your toothbrush if you eat a few chips each day — absurd. 

The truth, it turns out, is that dogs can do quite well with fresh food diets, and their teeth can do even better. Yes, a fresh food diet can improve your dog’s dental health — for more reasons than one. Here’s what you need to know:

The Importance of Good Dental Health in Dogs

Your animal’s dental health is important to their overall health and wellness for so many reasons. It comes down to way more than just potentially losing a tooth or two. In reality, just like with humans, oral health can worsen over time, leading to more than just tooth loss. Your pet can develop bad breath — if you’ve experienced it, you know that’s not a good thing. They can experience oral pain, and in the worst case, periodontal disease can lead to organ damage. 

Like with people, dental health is critical to overall well being. Brushing regularly, incorporating dental bones, and taking care of their diet can make all the difference. The bonus here is that when you take the proper measures for your dog’s oral health, their bodies benefit as well. When you provide great dental care for your pet, they can potentially live a better, longer life. One of the best ways to help your pet’s teeth is to provide fresh dog food

Kibble Is High in Carbs

The enduring myth that kibble is great for your pet’s teeth, especially as the only option, must be challenged. Far too many dry dog foods are made with sugars, carbs, and preservatives that lead to health problems. Far from benefiting dogs’ teeth or being the savior of oral health, kibble can do more harm than good. In fact, a kibble-based diet can lead directly to gum disease and tooth decay. Smaller kibble may miss the gumline, where plaque tends to build up. 

Furthermore, the high percentage of refined carbs in many dry dog foods can convert to simple sugars. Those simple sugars then break down and stick in your canine’s teeth. A diet composed of fresh food allows you more control over these refined carbs. You can rest assured that your dog is getting the proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and prebiotics they need for healthy teeth. Aim for fresh food that contains these critical nutrients, and you’ll be contributing to much more than great dentistry. 

Dog Bones Scrape Teeth

Another aspect of dental health your dog misses with a kibble-only diet is the benefit of raw dog bones. Raw dog bones have been shown to contribute tremendously to cleaning your dog’s teeth. After all, one of the ways dogs get their teeth clean is by chewing on harder foods for longer periods of time. In terms of diet, virtually nothing is going to be more texturally firm than a raw dog bone. 

A couple of times a week, you can give your dog a nice, big, raw meat bone for their teeth. Make sure it’s not loaded with fat and that it’s not too hard — yes, that’s a thing. For example, a leg bone from a large animal might be stronger than a tooth, which can actually cause damage. Look for raw pork or lamb rib bones, beef knuckles, or marrow bones. Each of these is great for a dog’s oral health and offers other benefits like mental stimulation as well. 

Raw Meats Break Down Bacteria

Finally, while you’re shopping for bones, you can look into high-quality raw meat for your dog’s oral health as well. You don’t have to feed your dog an entirely raw diet, but evidence shows raw meat is good for dogs. And not just for their physical health, but for their teeth as well. Natural enzymes are present in raw meat that break down the food particles in the mouth. They can also attack bad bacteria lying in your dog’s teeth. 

Again, you don’t have to feed your dog a raw meat-only diet. You can simply incorporate raw meat a few times a week and let the magic happen. Ground beef, chicken, turkey, and especially organ meats are all wonderful choices. You can also add in raw fish and, of course, those raw, meaty bones. As always, be sure you’re buying from a reputable supplier to avoid toxins and contaminants like salmonella. 

In the end, a diet rich in fresh food, raw bones, and raw meat can contribute to healthy teeth for your best friend. Your dog can not only have cleaner teeth, but they can also have nicer breath — the better to kiss you with! With the switch, you can feel good about contributing to your dog’s overall health and longevity. Each of these elements in your dog’s diet is good for their total wellness. So your faithful companion can stick around for a long, happy life. 

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson is an expert in dog behavior with over a decade of experience, and she is also passionate about working with cats and birds. In addition to contributing pet content to, she is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Brenda received her Bachelor of Science in Biological and Biomedical Sciences & Philosophy from Colorado College in 2014. She has taken classes in writing and remote animal behavior consulting, as well as courses on how to manage aggressive dogs and litter box issues. In 2016, she obtained her dog behavior consulting certification and joined the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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