A vet revealing plaque and tartar on a dog's teeth
A vet revealing plaque and tartar on a dog's teeth

Dog Plaque vs Tartar: What's the Difference?

Dogs are prone to plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth, just like humans. Plaque forms when food particles, saliva, and bacteria come together. If the plaque remains on the teeth long enough, it will harden and turn to tartar. When left unchecked, excessive amounts of plaque and tartar can lead to pain, discomfort, and even infection.  


To avoid these issues and keep your dog’s teeth healthy, pet owners should understand what plaque and tartar are and why preventing them is a key part of your dog’s dental health. We’ll explain all of this and more, including how to prevent plaque and tartar buildup in your dog. 

What Is Plaque on My Dog’s Teeth?

Plaque is a clear coating on the tooth and is very difficult to see in your dog’s mouth. Plaque forms the same way on dogs’ teeth as it does on human teeth. Plaque formation begins a few hours after eating, as bacteria mixes with food particles and saliva in the mouth. If it isn’t removed regularly, it will continue to grow and harden. 

How Does Plaque Buildup Affect My Dog’s Oral Health?

Plaque can cause many oral health issues, from something as common as bad breath (also known as halitosis) to more serious issues. If plaque buildup on your dog’s gumline or teeth goes untreated for long enough, your dog may start to experience inflamed gums or oral pain. 

What Is Tartar on My Dog’s Teeth?

If plaque is left on your dog’s teeth, it will harden and turn into tartar. It only takes a few days or less for plaque to become tartar,1 which is why daily brushing is a must. Tartar, also referred to as calculus, is a dark buildup on your dog’s teeth and gumline. 

What Does Tartar Buildup Look Like on Dogs?

The most common cause of tartar buildup is lack of regular oral care, like vet visits and daily brushing. Tartar is more noticeable than plaque, presenting as yellowish-brown spots or chalky buildup on your dog’s teeth or on the gumline. Dog tartar buildup feels very hard due to calcium and other minerals deposited from your dog’s saliva.

Can I Remove Tartar From My Dog’s Teeth at Home?

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) recommends that pet owners thoroughly brush their dog’s teeth every day (and it’s important to use a toothbrush and toothpaste that are designed especially for dogs—never use human toothpaste on your dog!).2 Without daily brushing, plaque and tartar can quickly get out of control. 


Because of its hardness, removing tartar from your dog’s teeth is no easy task. In these instances, take your dog to a veterinarian. Your vet will conduct a professional dental cleaning while your dog is under general anesthesia. The vet will use special tools to effectively remove plaque and tartar buildup. 


To make these vet visits easier, you can give your dog a daily dental chew to reduce plaque and tartar buildup between cleanings. 

How to Fight Plaque and Tartar Buildup in Dogs

Daily tooth brushing is a must for preventing plaque and tartar buildup in dogs, but it’s not the only way to promote good oral health. You can also give your dog a daily dental chew, such as ORAVET® Dental Hygiene Chews, to prevent plaque and tartar buildup between cleanings. 


Daily ORAVET chews don’t just loosen and dislodge plaque from the teeth. They also form a protective barrier that prevents bacterial attachment, helping to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Dogs love ORAVET chews,3 and you’ll love how simple they make serious oral care. 

Serious Oral Care Made Simple®