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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Abscessed Roots




Condition Overview

Root abscesses can affect any of the teeth, but the ones most commonly involved are the canines and the upper fourth premolars.


Tooth abscesses are extremely painful and are accompanied by fever, reluctance to eating, and depression. You may see puss oozing around the tooth.

An abscessed upper fourth premolar causes a characteristic swelling of the face below the eye. Eventually the abscess breaks through the skin and drains pus over the side of the face. A diseased tooth may break through the skin of the lower jaw and produce a similar condition. An abscessed tooth can result in an oral-nasal fistula.


A dental abscess in most cases is a complication of a dental infection. Bacteria, often bacteria present in plaque, infect and make their way into a tooth.


X-rays confirm the diagnosis and show whether bone is involved.


The abscessed tooth is extracted under anesthesia and the tooth cavity is cleaned and drained. In some cases, the tooth can be saved by doing a root canal or endodontic procedure. Antibiotics are used to treat infection. Aftercare at home involves the use of chlorhexidine mouthwashes.

After care at home involves rinsing the mouth with 0.2% chlorhexidine solution (Peridex or Nolvadent) once or twice a day. Soak a cotton ball and gently swab the gums and teeth, or use a plastic syringe and squirt the antiseptic directly into the teeth and gums. You can also brush the dog's teeth with a tooth brush and a toothpaste made for dogs that contains chlorhexidine. Massage the gums with your finger, a piece of linen, or a soft gauze pad, using a gentle circular motion, while pressing on the outside surface of the gums. Continue the mouth washes and massages until the gums are healthy. Feed a soft diet consisting of canned food mixed with water to turn it to mush. Once healing is complete, plan out a good home dental program.

A product called Stomadhex, available through your vet, may prove to be an effective substitute for the after care just described. Stomadhex is a small adhesive patch that sticks to mucous membranes. The patch is applied to the inside surface of the upper lip. It stays in place for several hours and slowly releases chlorhexidine and a vitamin called nicotinamide that promotes oral hygiene. The sustained release delivery system helps to prevent dental plaque and tartar and aids in controlling bad breath. The patch is applied daily for 10 days following a dental procedure, or as recommended by your vet.


Prevention is based around the proper care of your dogs teeth. A regular tooth brushing regimen will help to remove debris from the dogs teeth that can lead to more sever conditions such as this.


Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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