Have you noticed your dog develop a swelling beneath its eye? If so, this could be a tooth root abscess. If your dog is in pain and you suspect it may have an abscessed tooth, it's important to get it to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Left untreated, a tooth abscess in dogs can lead to more serious health problems for your dog. In this article, we'll discuss what causes a tooth abscess in dogs, how it's treated, and what you can do to prevent them from happening in the first place.

What is a tooth abscess in dogs and what causes it?

A tooth abscess in dogs is a severe infection around the root of the tooth. The abscess originates from bacteria entering the diseased or fractured tooth, and as it multiplies, pus begins to surround and isolate itself in an abscessed cavity. The most common causes of abscessed teeth can include:

  • Periodontal disease, a bacterial infection around the gumline and supporting structures of the teeth
  • Trauma to the tooth, such as a fractured tooth from your dog biting something hard such as an antler or hard plastic chew bone
  • Dental cavities
  • Dentigerous cysts and tumours

How to identify an abscessed tooth in your dog

Affected dogs are painful and depending on which tooth develops the abscess, you may notice a swelling on the face, just beneath the eye. Other symptoms of a tooth abscess in dogs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling or not eating due to pain
  • Reluctance to chew kibble
  • Pawing at, or rubbing their face
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the abscessed tooth

Diagnosis of a tooth root abscess in dogs

Your veterinarian will examine your dog's mouth for signs of infection. If they suspect a tooth abscess, they will likely recommend taking a dental x-ray to visualize the abscess. This is the only way to see if there is an abscess present and whether or not a tooth must be extracted.

Treating a tooth abscess in dogs

Treatment for abscessed teeth in dogs includes antibiotics, pain medication, and extraction of the affected tooth. Antibiotics are often started 3 days before the dental surgery and tooth extraction. They are also used to help prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body. The reason why tooth extraction is the only successful method in treating an abscessed tooth is that the abscess permanently damages the supporting structures of the tooth, making it very difficult for the tooth to perform the functions it's designed to do. Antibiotics will help treat the abscess initially but without extraction, the abscess will develop again with time. After the oral surgery, it is very important to only feed your dog soft, canned food and avoid chewing toys for 7-10 days.

FAQs about a tooth abscess in dogs

How to can you prevent a tooth abscess in your dog?

The best way to prevent abscessed teeth in dogs is by maintaining a good oral health care routine at home. This includes daily brushing of the teeth, which removes plaque and tartar that can accumulate on your dog's teeth. Plaque and tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, tooth decay, abscesses, and loose teeth. Avoiding chewing on hard objects can prevent tooth fractures and therefore future tooth abscesses.

What is safe to allow my dog to chew on?

There are many different types of chew toys on the market, but not all of them are safe for dogs. Avoiding antlers, hard plastic bones and ice cubes is recommended as these are the most common causes of tooth fractures in dogs. Refer to our article on vet recommended chew toys for more information.

What is the most common tooth that is prone to fracture and abscessing?

Tooth Abscess in Dogs

The most common tooth that fractures and subsequently develop an abscess, is the maxillary 4th premolar. Veterinarians refer to this tooth as the carnassial tooth and its purpose is to provide a shearing motion with the mandibular tooth below.

Tooth root abscess in dogs is a common and painful issue, but luckily they can be treated. The best way to treat an abscess is through tooth extraction with antibiotics following the surgery. You must get your dog in for treatment as soon as possible so it doesn't suffer from more serious health problems or have its condition worsen over time. Following appropriate treatment, the prognosis is excellent. Also, visit our pet dentistry page for more information on pet dentistry!