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Debunking the "kibble cleans teeth" myth

Updated on December 13, 2011

As loving pet parents, we always try to do the best for our pets. As far as doing things to help keep our pets healthy goes, picking the right food is probably near the top of most pet owner's list. Picking the right food for our pets can go a long way towards keeping them healthy. With all the different food choices out there, choose the perfect one for each individual animal can be a daunting task.

Oral health care is also very important for companion animals. Periodontal disease is one of the leading health concerns in domestic pets, and it can cause more than just teeth problems. Poor dental hygiene can sometimes lead to more serious health issues, such as life threatening bacterial infections in internal organs. It can also cause some more minor health issues, such as tooth loss and bad breath.

 Brushing your dog's teeth a few times a week is a great way to improve and maintain their oral health.
Brushing your dog's teeth a few times a week is a great way to improve and maintain their oral health. | Source

Pet food companies, like most other companies, are out to make a profit. Some of them claim that eating their food will help to keep your pet's teeth clean. But can eating a certain type of kibble really clean your pet's teeth, or are the pet food companies perpetuating a myth to try to convince people to purchase their products? Should you look for a pet food that says it will help to improve your pet's oral health, or are you better off making your pet food decision based on other attributes?

As you've probably already guessed from the name of this article, it is a myth that kibble will clean your pet's teeth. It's common sense if you think about it. Saying that kibble will keep your cat's or dog's teeth clean is similar to saying that eating a healthy portion of pretzels every day will be enough to keep your own teeth clean. As much as some people might prefer eating dry crunchy snacks to daily teeth brushing, it just doesn't work that way.

Plaque and tarter, much like in humans, builds up in our pets most commonly around the gum line. Even when a pet does chew his or her kibble, which not all of them do, kibble does not do a satisfactory job of scraping off the plaque from around and below our pet's gum line. Normally, the dry consistency of kibble will cause it to break up as soon as an animal starts to chew it. The food is broken down into small pieces up near the top of the teeth, meaning that it doesn't usually even make much contact with the part of the teeth where plaque and tarter are most commonly located. Not only does it not clean our pet's teeth, but the ingredients in kibble can actually increase plaque levels. The type of bacteria that form plaque can thrive on small amounts of kibble that get stuck between and around our pets teeth.

This doesn't mean that you should over look kibble completely. It's best to choose which food to give your pet based on important factors other than the supposed oral health benefits. This means that owners can feel free to choose wet foods over kibbles without worrying that they are putting their pet's oral health at risk, because the claims that kibble cleans teeth are unfounded. Instead, pet owners should base their pet food selections on factors such as ingredients, ingredient quality, protein levels, etc. Pet oral health is best maintained by introducing raw meaty bones to your pet's diet, or with a good old fashioned pet tooth brush and tooth paste.


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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Good information, Dragonrain. Kibble provides some mild abrasive action to the crowns of the teeth, but as you said, doesn't get to scrape around the gum line. Also, much of it isn't even chewed by many dogs. They'll do a couple of chomps and just swallow it without ever laying a glove on some of the morsels.

      What kibble does do, though, is promote salivation, which helps to wash everything down the throat.

      Some of the kibble brands, I believe, attempt to help remove plaque through enzymes, but I wonder if the food is even in the mouth long enough for the enzymes to adhere to the teeth. Voted up, interesting and useful. Regards, Bob