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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

Tooth root abscesses are a serious and very painful medical condition. It’s an infection that occurs around the root of a tooth. The most common teeth to get abscesses are the canine teeth, the largest premolars in the upper jaw, and the largest molars in the lower jaw.

The cause of tooth root abscesses usually stems from a fractured/broken tooth. The fractured tooth allows bacteria to enter the root canal. The bacteria cause the tooth to die. The infection can contaminate the bone surrounding the tooth which causes the abscess.  Dog’s commonly fracture or break their teeth by chewing on things like bones, bars on their crate, or hard toys.

Some signs an owner may see of a tooth root abscess are a dog not wanting to eat hard food, not wanting to chew their food, not wanting to chew on toys, pain when touching the dog’s face, pawing at the face, rubbing the face on the ground, or not wanting their mouth to be opened. Depending on what tooth is abscessed, an owner may or may not see a swelling on one side of the dog’s face.

The veterinarian may be able to suspect a tooth root abscess based on physical exam findings but the definitive way to diagnose it is by dental x-rays. The veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics and pain medication to start right away until the dog can come back in for dental treatment. There are two treatments for tooth root abscesses, extraction of the tooth or a root canal. Talk to your veterinarian about what treatment would be right for your dog. 



Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.