How to Recognize Your Dog Has an Abcessed Tooth

Abscessed teeth and other dental problems often go unnoticed by pet owners.
teeth image by krysek from

Dental care is a critical part of maintaining your dog's overall health. Tooth and mouth diseases are often overlooked, despite being one of the most common health problems in dogs, according to Claws and Paws Veterinary Hospital. Abscessed teeth and other serious dental conditions develop over months or years, particularly when dental hygiene is neglected. Abscesses are growths caused by colonies of bacteria that slip between cracks in your dog's teeth. These bacterial growths are painful, and they will eventually destroy your pet's teeth from the roots up unless treated.

Step 1

Monitor your dog's eating habits when you feed him. Abscessed teeth force your dog to chew his food slowly, or on only one side of his mouth, to avoid pressuring the inflamed sections of his gums. He may also drop pieces of food throughout his meal when he tries to chew with the sensitive side of his mouth. Unusual eating habits alone don't necessarily mean your dog requires immediate medical attention, but it is one of the few apparent signs of abscessed teeth.

Step 2

Watch your dog carefully throughout the day, as he sleeps, plays and interacts with his toys. If he shies away from chew toys, or if he frequently paws at his face, it is a sign that he may have severe dental pain, which could be caused by an abscessed tooth, according to Michigan Ave Animal Hospital. Dogs with dental problems may also avoid any contact with their head, even if they are normally affectionate. Tooth abscesses can also give the dog eye problems or make his breath particularly foul.

Step 3

Put on a pair of clean, disposable sterile gloves and gently part your dogs lips. Stop immediately if the dog whines or becomes aggressive. If your dog allows you to open his mouth, look at his gums for areas that are swollen or a darker color than the surrounding tissue. The swelling from an abscess develops around the base of the affected tooth, but it can inflame a large section of the dog's gums around the tooth as well.

Step 4

Contact your local animal medical center if you are unsure if your dog is displaying the symptoms of tooth abscesses. While this condition rarely constitutes an emergency, it is important to have a specialist examine your dog as soon as possible to determine the best method of treatment. There are several treatments for abscesses, depending on the severity. Other dental procedures and antibiotics are also used to treat these infections.


  • Your dog may react violently if you try to force his mouth open when it is inflamed. To look at his gums, try to move his lips rather than his entire jaw to minimize the pain.


  • Take your pets for annual checkups, even if they are in good health. Tooth problems are much easier to treat in their early stages.


About the Author

Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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