One Way to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth Without Brushing

Dog's teeth after anesthesia free tooth cleaning

Chester’s teeth after anesthesia-free teeth cleaning

Note: Brushing your dog’s teeth is the best way to keep them healthy and clean. I am not saying you should do this instead. However, if you do not brush your dog’s teeth, this is one way you an start doing something to keep them healthy. If you do already brush your dog’s teeth, this might be a nice addition.

I am not a Veterinarian. I don’t even play one on TV. What I am is a Dog Mom who cares about her dog’s health…but not enough to brush their teeth. I mean, I care about preventing gum disease but as I declared earlier, I don’t plan on every brushing their teeth. I just don’t have the time or patience.

What I don't want his teeth to look like again

What I don’t want his teeth to look like again

Since I don’t want to be totally irresponsible, I have been exploring alternatives. Earlier this year we tried anesthesia-free teeth cleaning. Chester and Gretel’s teeth weren’t terrible in the first place but I was happy with the results.   Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning is good for knocking the tartar down and, although it won’t detect gum disease like a deep cleaning and X-rays can, the veterinarian can alert you if they see any warning signs. I am still in search of something I can do on a daily basis to help clean their teeth without brushing. After some research I developed a method that I are trying and it seems to help. The first step in the routine is to sprinkle Plaque Off on their food daily. This softens the plaque on their teeth so that it scrapes off easier when they chew on things. I am not sure how it does it because the label says it’s just kelp flakes but they work. It gets the plaque soft enough that sometimes I can scrape a bit off with my fingernail when we are snuggling on the couch. P1030672_2C They really need to be chewing some something abrasive every day though. At 10 lbs we worry about calories. They are also insane chewers so if I give them a bully stick or something they mow through it right away. That means they don’t get the benefit of prolonged chewing action. Currently, I am giving them Antlers to chew on. They aren’t super interested in them so I have to trick them. When I remember and have time, I soak them in chicken broth over night. That softens them up a little and makes them taste a little like chicken I think. They seem more interested anyway. P1030671A The other thing I do, regardless if I soaked the antlers or not, is to dip the end it coconut oil. I will admit that it can be a tad messy but since our carpet isn’t the cleanest anyway I don’t stress out too much about it. The coconut oil tastes good to them but it also helps their gums and teeth. It has natural anti-bacterial properties and my hope is that when they chew on the antler it pushes some of it under the gumline. Even if it jut comes in contact with the gums that is good. I have heard of people mixing it with baking soda to make their own doggy toothpaste (I suppose it would work for humans too).

Now, keep in mind that this is just a system I am trying. It makes sense to me and I have seen some improvements with this method…or at least their teeth haven’t turned brown again since the anesthesia-free teeth cleaning. I plan to try this method for a while and see how it works out. I will let you know and also write about any tweaks I have to make to our routine.

Update: I know many dogs that are happy to chew on antlers as they come from the pet store or soaked in broth as I mentioned here. Chester and Gretel were still not fans of the antlers even after soaking. I went back to giving them bully sticks to chew on for 5 minutes every day until we find a more suitable, lower-calorie, alternative.

See Also: I Don’t Brush My Dogs Teeth. I Did This Instead.


  1. says

    Those teeth look good! I do a little anaesthesia-free tooth cleaning myself. I am fairly successful with Sid, but Jeffie has never been great about having his mouth messed with – a legacy of having a deep unhealed ulcer complete with a fistula after having some extractions. I could have put my thumb in it, but apparently it went unnoticed till we got him. Anyway. I clean their teeth, but Jeffie’s are still gunked up and I think he’s going to end up toothless, poor guy.

    I’ve tried plaque off, but Jeffie is the second dog I’ve had who vomited on Plaque-Off, so I ditched it. At the moment I’m trying fragaria, which is homeopathic, and I don’t have a lot of faith, but it’s easy enough to slip a pillule into their mouths each morning, so we’ll see! He already has few enough teeth that he can’t chew anything much.
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    • Jessica Rhae says

      I have thought about doing some manual plaque removal myself. Chester & Gretel are both pretty good with me messing with their mouth. With the plaque off it softer so it wouldn’t take that long. My feeble attempt would in no means negate the need for a real teeth cleaning but it would help keep the teeth clean and gums healthy in between.

      I am not totally surprised that the Plaque Off made Jeffie sick. I mean, I didn’t know a dog could get sick from it but, now that you mention it, it could make sense. The product is made of kelp so some dogs could be allergic and/or the iodine in the kelp might be too much for them. There is a tooth gel my pet store owner friend raves about so I am going to try that once I am out of the Plaque Off. I will share my thoughts.

  2. Theresa says

    Hmm I’d also be interested in trying the plaque off but worry about how it would settle with a sensitive tummy. Our Harvey is a marathon chewer so it seems like a good fit. He’s also pretty meh about antlers. We find huge retriever roll raw hides are the best chew. We buy only ones made and processed in the USA to decrease chemicals and nasties and he goes through about 1-2 a week chewing 2-3 hours a day. Haven’t had a weigh issue yet but he’s always been a grazer with kibble and if young and active

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I couldn’t speak to the Plaque Off and tummies. Chester & Gretel have stomachs of steel. I wouldn’t guess it would bother a dog because it is just kelp but Jay (comment above) said that it did make his dog sick.

  3. says

    My mom did that kind of teeth cleaning on her dog and was happy with it. I can’t even kind of get in Roxy’s mouth, so anything like the ideas you mentioned is good for her. I have stuff I put in their water, Torrey lets me brush. I tried the coconut oil baking soda thing. She hated it. Straight coconut oil is much better and just as good.

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Yay. That is my point here. I know that some people will (and have) criticized me for writing this since I am not pushing the idea of brushing your dog’s teeth. However, I know that brushing is just not happening for some dogs. Maybe because they never tried or because, like with me and you, we did and it just doesn’t work for us or our dogs. I want to be honest and let people know they are not alone. This is a method I am trying that is better than nothing in my book :)

      My friend rubs coconut oil on her dog’s teeth and gums and swears by it. I have also heard of the additives you can put in there water. I think the ones I have seen have been more for breath than teeth though. Which one do you use?

      • Queen Dee says

        OMG! The teeth really are clean!
        I was suppose to take my toy poodle this Friday to have her teeth cleaned, but just couldn’t wrap my head (or my purse) around the minimum payment of $500. She said it could be more depending on her teeth, etc. So I will try the anesthesia free cleaning.
        Also, thank you all for your advice. I have coconut oil and will begin applying to my GiGi girl’s teeth tonight.

        • Jessica Rhae says

          The coconut oil is more of a preventative thing to make the gums healthier (because of the antiseptic properties). It doesn’t work for all dogs but, hey. it’s almost free so why not try it right? The anesthesia-free teeth cleaning was performed by a vet. He can recognize some of the warning signs that could indicate if dogs have teeth problems and need a thorough cleaning. It’s not 100% accurate in detecting tooth problems (only x-rays under anesthesia is) but it’s a good shot and more than a lot of people do.
          Jessica Rhae recently posted…I Am Not Breaking Up With You, But We Need To TalkMy Profile

          • Sam says

            please don’t give your dog raw hides or bully sticks. They are pure protein and over work the pets liver. Please stop they unbalance your dogs meals requirements. Google it for yourself and find out. thx for reading.

            • Jessica Rhae says

              Personally, I don’t, and would never, give my dogs rawhide. Your point is about the protein though. I don’t give my dogs a whole bully stick at a time. They get to chew on it for about 10 minutes each time – enough to get some scraping action on their teeth. Honestly though, there are many dogs that eat raw food and many of those eat the whole prey model that is only protein. There is no one diet that is good for every dog but many thrive on it. I worry more about the sugar content of a bully stick myself.
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    • Jessica Rhae says

      I am not sure what kind of calories rawhide has but I don’t feel safe giving it to Chester and Gretel. Rawhide does not digest and, in small dogs especially, it can cause a blockage. The risk is worse for Chester because he had surgery for an obstruction once so he has some scar tissue impeding things in his gut. I WISH I could just let them chew away on something and have it, alone, take care of their teeth.

  4. Kathleen says

    We have done this treatment for the teeth as well as the product that is to be sprinkled on their teeth. It works okay, but I had to just get in there with a toothbrush to really do a good job anyway. I like the idea of using the antler dipped in coconut oil – will try that. The rest is just not enough to keep their teeth healthy from my experience.

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I have tried several other tooth products that you actually have to put in their mouth. I ended up getting most of it on me because they fought me so much. There was one in particular where they ran around the house shaking their head and scratching their mouth for 10 minutes. I felt so bad. I like the Plaque Off because they “put it in their mouth” themselves :)

      The coconut oil on the antler helps it taste better for them too.

    • says

      warning about the antler rawhide……article just today about a pet dentist in Bonita, fl. He says those antlers just crack their teeth

      • Jessica Rhae says

        Hi Shirley. An antler is most definitely not “rawhide”, which a dog cannot digest and puts them at a good risk for an intestinal blockage requiring surgery. An antler IS a type of chew though. I am sure that is what you meant but I don’t want a reader to see this and be confused. In my opinion, an antler is a safer chew for a dog than rawhide (based on personal knowledge and experience).

        To your warning though, yes, there have been cases where an antler has caused a dog to crack a tooth or has splintered and stuck in the gum. It is rare but it can happen so thanks for mentioning it. It is possible for a dog to crack a tooth on any kind of hard chew like a raw bone so they should always be supervised closely. In the case of antlers, soaking them in water, or broth as I mentioned, will soften them a bit so there is less risk of a cracked tooth.
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  5. Diane Lee says

    I have sibling mini doxies, sister has fairly great teeth, her brother gets gunked up..we have the cleaned by the vet (pet I durance helped with the cost!)
    We tried antler for a bit but they are such voracious chewers, my boy ended up chipping one of his canines..end of that..I will try the coconut oil I think. The Plaque-off – they wouldn’t drink their water..

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I was going to check and see if my pet insurance helps cover the cost of teeth cleaning. I don’t think they do though. That would be nice.

      I have heard that antlers can chip teeth. As with any chew, they must be supervised. Chester and Gretel don’t get into them enough to chip a tooth I think. At least not so far. *fingers crossed*

  6. says

    I’m going to have to try the coconut oil on the antler thing. Luckily, these guys love to chew antlers because I’m not so good with brushing their teeth either. We’re also giving a water additive a try, though they seem to avoid that bowl unless the others are empty…
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          • says

            It was my understanding that the quantity is so small that there’s no chance of toxicity. Of course, I’m super careful about quantities, and each dose is divided among 3 dogs and a cat (though it’s not toxic to cats) and added to their bowl once a week. She didn’t seem the least bit concerned, but I suppose it’s worthwhile to research alternatives that don’t contain xylitol, if there are any.
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          • Sharon says

            I don’t understand about the Xylitol either. As my dox got older , I realized his kibble was making him sick. He wouldn’t even touch another brand and I began making his food from meat and veggies. Bad breath came right away and I bought an expensive tooth paste. He didn’t like it but allowed it . I was looking at the tube one day and there it was . Xylitol. It’s deadly to dogs , please be careful if you are brushing your dogs teeth. I will get some coconut oil and use that , thanks!

  7. says

    Great post! This is useful information for dog all dog owners out there. This is especially helpful for those who don’t have time – or like, for dogs who are extremely difficult in letting their teeth get brushed!

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Thanks Jamie. I am just being realistic here. I know that so many people don’t brush their dog’s teeth. I want to give them something to try that may be able to help. Something is better than nothing right?

  8. says

    Like you, I’m not a dog tooth brusher. Perhaps if I’d started Buster and Ty from a young age things would be different, but there are days when I barely get my two teeth brushings in, much less tackle the dogs! We’ve been feeding raw meaty bones about once every other week and the boys’ teeth look fantastic – their vet was shocked the last time they were in for a checkup. I’ve also found that different types of bully sticks last longer than others. If you can find the ones from Wild Chewz (I found them in Portland at Pets on Broadway) – they’re from grass fed beef and they lasted much longer than any other bully sticks I’ve bought. My problem is, now I can’t find them again!
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    • Jessica Rhae says

      Amen to that. I have a hard enough time brushing my own teeth and taking care of myself. I do the best I can, where I can with Chester and Gretel. Brushing is just not something I do.

      I will ask my pet-store-owner friend about the Antlers. Can you not find them online? Perhaps I need to take a trip to Portland, buy them out and mail them to you :)

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Well, I know I am taking a risk by going public that I don’t brush Chester & Gretel’s teeth. I just want people to know that it’s ok and that there ARE alternatives that, while don’t do as good of a job as brushing, can help. Thanks for reading our and taking time to comment!

  9. Jodi Chick (+ Kolchak & Felix too) says

    I never thought of putting a bit of coconut oil on the end of the antlers. What a good idea! We also use the PlaqueOff, but I do brush as well. Actually, you might be surprised, if I put a bit of doggy toothpaste on, Koly & Fe are happy to brush themselves!
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    • Jessica Rhae says

      Oh, I didn’t go straight from getting a dog to refusing to brush their teeth. Ha, ha. I have tried several times and they don’t like it. And like Amy, most days I have a hard enough time remembering to brush my own teeth :) I did see something a few months ago that was like a wide, flat tongue brush. I think it was mostly to help with bad breath but you just put the stuff on and they lick it. I think they would do that but that is not helping their teeth much.

      Originally, I dipped the antlers in coconut oil to make them taste more appealing but then though it was a good idea for the antii-bacterial properties too.
      Jessica Rhae recently posted…One Way to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth Without BrushingMy Profile

  10. says

    One of my co-workers used to scrape the plaque off her dog’s teeth all the time. He had the most amazingly clean dog teeth I’ve ever seen. I just got some antlers for my dog to try and someone told me about the chicken broth thing too. Pretty good idea! Like you, I’m just not that into brushing my dog’s teeth… I’ll do it if I think about it, but I can never remember! I know a recipe for homemade dog toothpaste and it does include baking soda.
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    • Jessica Rhae says

      I am glad to know that I am not the only dog blogger that does not brush my dog’s teeth. I love them but only have so much time…or memory. They hate their teeth being brushed and it is no fun for me. I do, however, clip their toenails myself. The don’t like that much either but, since it directly affects their walking and I don’t mind it, I work with them to get used to it. I still have trouble doing it as much as I should though. I pay someone else to do it half the time now.

  11. says

    With regular (weekly) brush it sure helped a lot. We blog about a recipe for homemade toothpaste (with coconut oil). Yes to Elk Antlers, best alternative one reason BEA(BSS) is our blog sponsor as we use their product. It can be very messy soaking it with coconut oil but adding/sprinkler some baking soda will help out. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Oh, it would get really messy to try and soak the antler in coconut oil. I soak it in chicken broth and only dip the end in coconut oil for a little extra bit of tastiness. It’s a bonus that it has anti-bacterial properties. Genius suggestion on the baking soda though. It’s like putting some toothpaste on the end.
      Jessica Rhae recently posted…One Way to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth Without BrushingMy Profile

  12. says

    I will have to try antlers for my boys. They have hard bones for them to chew, and have noticed that real bone works MUCH better than plastic alternatives, especially since Quincy doesn’t have any interest in plastic. Dental health has been on a mind a lot this week, since Quincy just had a cleaning, and ended up having teeth extracted. I want to keep his remaining teeth as healthy as possible!
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  13. says

    I’ve heard many positive reviews about this Plaque Off but unfortunately it isn’t available where I am. Neither does my dog like to chew. She has raw meaty bones but her teeth are still yellowish and her breath stinks! Even after 2 scalings! I’m currently using a cleaning gel but she hates it. I use coconut oil to brush her teeth too but I’m like you. Last option would be to add a water additive. Anyone has luck with tropiclean?

  14. Trish says

    I am owned by,Teddy, 14, Lacey, 12 and Cameo, who is 8… Maltese are known for teeth problems so I brush their teeth when they have a bath ( usually weekly, they have hair, not fur) and other times I use coconut oil to massage their teeth and gums and, in addition, I use Plaque Blast, which I get from Petsmart…about $9.99 a bottle … I also use colloidal silver after that and, their teeth stay clean and gums healthy… You have to be proactive about daily use but, it definitely works…thanks for sharing your info…my dogs, are not chewers…so the antlers wouldn’t interest them… Later, Trish

  15. Barbara K says

    I’m surprised not to hear any feedback on Fragaria Vesca (wild strawberry) pellets. I’m guessing this is not well-known in the Dachshund community? You can check on it at: I used to foster Cairns so that’s where I first learned about it. It’s not an overnight solution to plaque build-up but does work with appropriate usage. I foster a lot of Dachshunds and the ones with plaque problems get dentals as part of their vetting when they come into foster care. The goal with fosters is to get them vetted, address their issues, find out who they are and get them adopted. So Fragaria Vesca is not used with them as it’s long-term application that works best. When I first researched it (a number of years ago), I found the one sold on the Cairn Rescue site was the most economical and equivalent in strength to that sold in health food stores or online.

    I’d be very interested to know if anyone uses it or tries it and how it works for their dogs.

    Barbara K
    Olympia, WA

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Huh. I have never heard of such a thing. Thanks for sharing. I read it and what it is supposed to do. It sounds similar to the kelp that I use. Gretel loves strawberries though so I might try it. My issue with this type of treatment is that she doesn’t chew her food so wouldn’t be chewing the pellets. The kelp can’t be used in the water though like this. You can buy commercial water additive for helping to clean teeth but some of them contain xylitol…which is poisonous to dogs (my vet tells me there is not a high enough concentration in the water additive to be poisonous but I am still leary). I would much rather use a natural water additive.
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  16. norine says

    hi, i sooo grateful for all these comments. “-)…. wanted to share that homeopathic pellets are very
    tiny, the size of the very tip of a qtip…… the size is very tiny. “-). and they are diluted many times and
    they work!!!! xoxoxoxoxo

  17. says

    Sam tends to be prone to plaque so rather than have him ‘go under’ every year, I’ve been giving him elk antlers. Wow, what a turn around and he absolutely loves them! No small feat for this knuckleheaded ADHD dog with zero focus! I’m completely sold. :)
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  18. Dina says

    HELP!!! I have a toy Maltese – 3 years old – last year when I took him for his physical, the vet noticed some loose teeth. She was shocked and so was I. My Bailey will NOT let me do too much to him and especially brush his teeth. He gets vicious and tries to bite me. He is normally a very sweet dog. I am totally beside myself because he was diagnosed last year with Addison’s Disease, a stress disorder. I try to make his life as easy and stress free as possible but my stress level is going through the roof. He is only 4 pounds, he has never been one to chew on raw hides or greenies or anything like that. I have a closet full of these types items that he just puts his nose up to. Today I took him for his physical and was told his gums and teeth are really in poor shape, even perhaps some loose teeth. I don’t know what to do. Has anyone had any luck with the additives in the water? I need alot of help!

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Wow….4 lbs is a tiny pup! I don’t blame you for being wary of putting him under anesthesia. Unfortunately, any dental products on the market are intended to help keep teeth clean in between thorough dental cleanings. If he is to the point that the vet mentioned his bad gums and teeth to you then I would say he at the point that he needs professional dental work under anesthesia. The good news is that the procedure itself won’t be stressful for him because he will be knocked out. Also, he will have some recovery time after but he will feel better because his teeth and gums wont be bothering him anymore.

      I would agree that some kind of preventative after his dental procedure is a good idea. I haven’t found anything that works excellent for us yet though. I have found that Plaque Off (that you sprinkle on food) has helped a little to soften the plaque. The plaque still needs to be “rubbed off” though either with a tooth brush, a chew toy or with your fingernail. We are currently trying the Tropiclean tooth gel and water additive. I have heard good things about it but we haven’t been using it long enough to form an opinion about them yet.
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  19. Kelly says

    Totally going to give the coconut oil on their antlers.
    Have you tried Himalayan’s? They are made from yak milk.
    They’re a bit expensive so I use them as special treats right now. (Money is very tight right now).

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I have tried Himalayan Chews. Unfortunately, Chester and Gretel are highly food motivated and voracious chewers. They can chew through even the largest of them in under 20 minutes! And, yes, they are very expensive.

      • Jennifer says

        Have a 3 year old Coton de Tulear diagnosed with zero function Addison’s two years ago. She is maintained on monthly Percorten injections and supplemental weekly oral Prednisone. She has done well and is AMAZING.

        Try to clean teeth daily by brushing and applying green gel which softens plaque. If I am not on it breath becomes garbage-like and plaque accumulates FAST! If I am on it then breath is actually very pleasant and fresh.

        Question is: Can this dog ever have teeth cleaned under anesthetic? Seems like non-anesthetic cleaning would be good by VERY STRESSFUL. Would the anesthetic itself be a stress producer for her little body which would just struggle to produce stress relieving hormones? If anyone out there has a story to tell, please tell it!!! This little girl is an absolute angel and very well loved by everyone. Thank you.

  20. Jennifer says

    My 3 year old Coton de Tulear was diagnosed with Addison’s two years ago!!! She is at zero function. We are maintaining her with monthly Percorten and weekly (or extra when stressed) doses of oral Prednisone. She is an amazing dog and has done well with treatment.

    I do try to clean her teeth daily by brushing and using a little of that green gel which is supposed to soften the plaque. This winter when I was struggling to take care of my ill mother, the dog’s teeth were not a top priority and she seemed to build plaque pretty quickly. I can tell her oral health just by her breath. When I am really on it–she has very pleasant breath all the time. If I am off–breath gets garbage-like. Trying to stay on more than off. My question is (and I will ask my vet too) CAN THIS DOG HAVE HER TEETH CLEANED UNDER GENERAL ANESTHETIC or is that a SERIOUS RISK OF DEATH for her????? Concerned that just the anesthetic is a stews producer for her body. Just because she is asleep doesn’t mean her body isn’t struggling to produce hormones she doesn’t have. Anybody out there know or have an experience? I would greatly appreciate any help. Love this dog like CRAZY! She is one in a million. Seriously!

    • says

      Hi Jennifer. Anesthesia for a healthy dog makes me a bit nervous, although the risk is usually less than allowing whatever condition warrants it to continue untreated. If definitely sound like your pup has some things that might complicate it. I highly, highly to ask your vet this question. No one here is a vet and an expert on your dog’s condition. A good vet will do several tests, or weigh the circumstances very carefully, and make an honest recommendation to you (won’t tell you it will be ok when there is actually a major risk). If you are looking just to knock down the plaque during times you can’t perform the regular brushing, non-anesthesia teeth cleaning might help. Just be sure the person doing it is trained properly to do so (a dog dental hygienist or veterinarian).
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