Dogs, much like humans, need to keep up with their oral hygiene. Understandably getting a toothbrush anywhere near your pup’s mouth can be a rather arduous process (mine will evade me by hiding under the bed); the outcome of avoidance can be even worse.
Dog tooth abscesses are exceptionally common afflictions but can have some rather severe and costly expenses. Let’s outline what they are exactly, how they grace themselves in your canine’s canine and how we can deal with them should they rear their ugly heads.
What Is An Abscess?
A dog tooth abscess is a severe infection thanks to bacteria working its way from a dog’s mouth to the root of their tooth. This usually happens for one of two reasons: periodontal disease or broken teeth that create an open path for bacteria to access your dog’s inner mouth.
Periodontal Disease and Tooth Abscesses
Periodontal disease is a relentlessly progressive disease caused by bacteria in the mouth that damages bone, gums and other supporting structures to the teeth. It’s not difficult to see how severe periodontal disease can lead to a gnarly tooth abscess after all bacteria doesn’t have to travel far from gums to teeth.
The bacteria laden gums of a dog suffering from periodontal disease create a prime atmosphere for bacteria to travel along the outside of the tooth all the way to the root causing an abscess.
Broken Teeth and Tooth Abscesses
Broken teeth are in effect, open season for bacteria to enter the root of the tooth, causing an abscess. First off, it's important to note how overwhelmingly common broken teeth are in dogs; 1 in 4 experience a traumatic dental injury, 50% of which are fractured teeth and it's not hard to see why thanks to the canine penchant for chomping and chewing and near everything.
Enamel covers a healthy tooth offering a protective surface against bacteria, bits of food and whatever else that may be lurking in a dog’s mouth reaching the inner and more vulnerable parts of the tooth such as the so-called pulp chamber. Broken teeth with obviously fractured enamel grant bacteria access to this pulp chamber which is rather indiscriminate allowing bacteria straight to the root of the tooth where an abscess will flourish.
If your dog has been unfortunately bestowed with a tooth abscess they’ll likely show one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bad Breath - Like many oral affiliations tooth abscesses are caused by bacteria that omit an rather unpleasant odor
- Pain - If you notice your dog chewing strangely such as dominantly on one side they’re likely experiencing pain from a potential tooth abscess
- Red Gums - A bacteria laden mouth is conducive to a tooth abscess so look out for infected and inflamed gums that will appear red.
- Swelling In The Jaw - An abscess in the lower segment of the mouth will likely cause visible swelling in the jaw
- Swelling Under The Eye - An abscess in the upper segment of the mouth will likely cause swelling under the eyes
Dog tooth abscesses have symptoms that aren’t quite exclusive to something as severe as this so it’s always best to get your vet to diagnose any potential suspects.
How Is a Tooth Abscess Diagnosed?
After a visual diagnostic perouse in the mouth, a vet will suggest a dental procedure for any suspected cases of tooth abscesses.
During this process the vet will anaesthetise your dog so that they may have unfettered access to their mouths as they obviously couldn’t with a waking dog. The vet will then take x-ray images of your dog’s tooth to identify any abnormalities in the roots that you couldn’t see with the naked eye. An abscessed tooth will display a dark ring around the roots of the tooth on an X-ray. This is a critical step to determining whether or not your dog has a tooth abscess.
Anesthetizing your dog for diagnosing a tooth abscess is a great opportunity to check up on any other oral concerns and to deep clean your dog’s teeth - yes vets do this but for a pretty penny so you’ll still have to broach your canine with a trusty toothbrush.
How Are Tooth Abscesses Treated?
Once an abscess has been diagnosed your vet will issue you with antibiotics and pain medication to provide some temporary relief for your pup until you can be scheduled for a procedure to permanently take care of the abscessed tooth.
The most likely solution to an abscessed tooth is removing it entirely along with the infected remnants. The vet will remove the entire tooth, clean and disinfect the region before stitching the gums closed with an absorbable stitch that will reduce the need for any additional trauma to the area. Your dog’s gums should be completely healed in a matter of a couple of weeks.
Root Canal Therapy
If you’re concerned about keeping your dog with a full set of gnashers then it's best to opt for a root canal. This is a very specialized procedure that isn’t completed by every vet so the likelihood is that you’ll need to be referred to a veterinary dental specialist. Usually, root canal is only performed on large and functional teeth that your dog will have a somewhat hard time without.
Much like a human root canal the infected pulp tissue will be removed using special equipment and subsequently replaced with dental tissue.
A Toothless Dog?
It makes utter sense to be worried about leaving your dog with fewer teeth but the reality is that a pain-free mouth will make eating that much more enjoyable. Even toothless dogs that have lost all their teeth to oral disease and abscesses can enjoy food and their lives by just switching to a soft diet.
Although it is a common affiliation, dog tooth abscesses are best avoided entirely by simple routine brushing of your pup’s teeth. It’s always easier said than done but dedicating a little time every day to getting your dog accustomed to brushing their teeth is a lot easier than putting them (and your wallet) through the pain and danger of a potential abscess-caused surgery.