Ingredient spotlight: sodium tripolyphosphate


Sodium tripolyphosphate is the active ingredient in our Wholesome Blend® Naturally Fresh formulas that supports dental health in dogs and cats by reducing calculus/tartar formation. 


Calculus/tartar contribution to periodontal disease 

The most common disorder affecting dogs and cats is periodontal disease (for more information check out our resource on periodontal disease here), the primary cause being bacterial plaque. 

Within minutes of a tooth being cleaned, whether it be professionally or by the mechanical cleaning (brushing) effect of kibble, a sticky film forms on the tooth and starts to accumulate bacteria from the natural microflora of the mouth. This is bacterial plaque. Left undisturbed, calcium from saliva and food is deposited into the plaque, creating a hard, porous material known as calculus/tartar. 

While calculus/tartar is not the primary cause of periodontal disease, it contributes to its progression. Its rough and porous surface promotes more bacteria attachment to the tooth and the hard, calcified material can only be removed during a professional dental cleaning. Once calculus/tartar forms, home oral hygiene measures (tooth brushing, dental diets, dental treats) are ineffective. This is why prevention of calculus/tartar formation is essential in supporting oral hygiene. 

Reducing the formation of calculus/tartar 

Pyrophosphates and longer chain polyphosphates are compounds that are powerful sequestrants. Sequestrants are used to bind cations, making them unavailable for reactions. Time-travelling back to chemistry class, cations are positively charged and are attracted to the negatively charged sequestrants (opposite charges attract). Due to this property pyrophosphates and polyphosphates have been used in a variety of different industries. 

Figure 1: Sequestering agent (pyrophosphate) binding to cation (calcium). 

For decades, pyrophosphates have been used in human toothpastes for their efficacy in reducing calculus/tartar and supporting healthy gums. Pyrophosphates (negatively charged) block calcium (positively charged) from depositing into plaque by binding to calcium in the saliva and on the tooth, and they bind to receptors on the tooth, blocking sites for calcium. With calcium unable to be deposited into plaque, there is a reduction in the formation of calculus/tartar. 

Figure 2:  
Left: Sodium tripolyphosphate binds to calcium on the tooth’s surface, making calcium unavailable to form calculus/tartar. 
Right: Calcium and other minerals are freely deposited into the plaque, permitting calculus/tartar to form. 

Ingredient safety 

Sodium tripolyphosphate is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in animal feeds by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This means that under the conditions of intended use, experts qualified to evaluate the safety of sodium tripolyphosphate have deemed it safe to use.   

After pyrophosphate binds to calcium and is swallowed, pyrophosphate is degraded by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract and the calcium swallowed becomes a dietary source for the body. 


Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2019 Official Publication: Part 582 Substances Generally Recognized as Safe in Animal Feeds

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