Small Dog Food Kibble and Bad Teeth

How does the size of your dog food affect the overall health of your pup? Some dog food sales representatives will tell you that the smaller the dog food kibble, the easier it is to digest for the dog. Although this is true, it seems that some other areas of health are sacrificed – mainly the teeth.

Dogs are meant to chew. The more they grind and chew their food, the more plaque and calcium deposits are removed from their teeth. However, if you take the chewing away, you take away their natural ability to keep their teeth clean. Sales representatives don’t tell you this small bit of information. (small pun intended)

We learned this the hard way after changing our dog food to a smaller and more easily digestible brand. The sale rep told us that the smaller kibble was better for the overall health of the dog as they are better able to digest all the nutrients from the food. This leaves the kibble totally absorbed and eliminates runny smelly bowels. We were sold!

After doing a normal monthly checkup on our Labradors for any abnormal lumps or other health problems, I noticed that their back teeth had started to become encrusted. Now, I don’t mean a thin film of plague but instead something that reminded me of coral on the bottom of the ocean. It was bumpy, pale tan and was just the ugliest thing I had ever seen. I knew in heartbeat it was a combination of extreme calcium and plague build up and it was unacceptable for any dog.

Immediately I began to research dog foods and found some articles that outlined a number of dog food companies that are researching larger kibble options to help dogs chew their food more properly and remove unwanted plague from their teeth at the same time. This is because, in the wild, dogs will chew for hours on their prey in order to get everything they need from the animal. In domestic life though, most dogs inhale their dog food and the smaller the dog kibble, the more inhaling is done.

Some would argue that they could just combat tooth problem by having a veterinarian clean their dog’s teeth. Out of our poll last week, 43% said that they clean their own dog’s teeth, 43% said that they don’t clean them at all and only 14% said that they have their dog’s teeth cleaned professionally. It was amazing!

I will admit that I was of the 14% that would rather pay over $200 to have their teeth professionally cleaned but that was before I researched the topic of dog food and tooth problems in more detail. As it turns out, I can fix the problem myself by not only cleaning their teeth more regularly but also providing them more things to chew on.


  1. No more breaking huge dog biscuits into little bits and giving them throughout the day – now they get the biscuit and chomp/grind it to bits on their own.
  2. Enter larger kibble with a teaspoon of olive oil. Believe it or not, they chew their food more when it is mixed with something – not as easy to inhale.
  3. And don’t forget those butcher bones – all natural and hours of chew time plus they aren’t expensive at all if purchased directly from a local butcher shop.

Yes, we can get rid of that nasty stuff on their teeth without having to spend money for a veterinarian to do all the work for us. Dogs were meant to chew and gnaw – and so shall they do just that!

  • james

    No kibble at all is the only way to keep dogs teeth clean.

    • Shannon Steffen

      And what do you recommend for Labrador Retrievers to chew on as they are natural chewers?

  • Heather

    There is absolutely no scientific evidence that I know of to support this myth of kibble– any kibble, regardless of the size– cleaning dogs and cats teeth. If you can provide some, I would love to see it.

    To say that something akin to cereal will clean the teeth of a carnivore that is meant to rip through flesh and bone is preposterous.

    • Shannon Steffen

      Heather – if you read the article closely, it states that the sale rep told us that the small kibble would be better for the dogs. HOWEVER, the sales rep was incorrect as the lack of chewing (due to it’s smaller size) caused coral-like film on the dogs’ teeth. Therefore, smaller kibble is NOT better for dogs as it does not allow for proper cleaning of the teeth. That is why raw bones work great to clean the teeth as the teeth are meant to “rip through flesh and bone”. The larger kibble is welcome to allow for more proper chewing and use of the teeth – however, it is not sufficient alone.

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  • Hua

    That was really helpful knowledge about the teeth cleaning. I look forward to reading more on your blog!

  • Jess H

    Good article. I am one of the people who feed a raw diet. I have seen such a huge difference in my dogs, but their teeth is the first thing that the vet will comment on. Our 10 yr old Golden has white teeth like a puppy and he’s never once had a tooth brush in his mouth.

  • Debbie

    Ironically I just blogged myself about brushing my Lab’s teeth– today! I found some great information here, and I plan to follow your blog. I have a 2 yr old English black Lab named Hannah. She has her CGC and is a therapy dog. She works in the public schools with special education kids. I write alot about dogs on my blog too, but many things capture my fancy.