How to Treat an Abscessed Dog Tooth

An abscessed dog tooth is an infection that typically occurs near the end of the root of a tooth. The most common causes of abscesses are fractures of the teeth, which can allow bacteria to enter the root canal inside the tooth that leaks out through small openings at the end of the root. Sometimes, periodontal disease, or severe gum disease, causes the development of an abscessed tooth. It is important to realize the majority of abscessed teeth never have any associated swelling or clinical signs that an owner would notice.

Abscessed teeth are very painful and can lead to other serious health problems for dogs if left untreated. It is important to treat an abscessed tooth as soon as possible. Prompt and appropriate treatment will almost always resolve the issue and prevent complications. 

Extraction or Root Canal 

Treatment for an abscessed tooth in dogs requires either extraction or root canal therapy, depending on the condition of the tooth and the severity of the infection. For smaller teeth, such as incisors, extraction can be a good option. But for larger teeth such as canines and molars, root canal treatment can be just as effective as extracting the tooth because it involves less trauma and maintains the function of these important large teeth. 

Whether or not a tooth is a candidate for root canal therapy with root canal treatment depends largely on the condition of the diseased tooth and surrounding tissues. If there is bone loss around the socket of the tooth, or if the crown of the tooth has significant damage, extraction may be the best course of treatment. In the case of the large upper and lower chewing teeth, it is desirable to save these teeth to maintain chewing function. When performed correctly, root canal therapy in veterinary patients had a high success rate.


Antibiotics may be prescribed to help control the infection and suppress symptoms, but antibiotics alone will not fully treat the infection and it will recur as soon as the antibiotics are stopped. This is because the infection is hiding inside the tooth, where antibiotics can’t reach. Your pet will need to have the abscess properly treated with extraction or root canal therapy. The infection will not be totally resolved until your dog has had professional, definitive treatment. 

Follow-up care 

If a tooth is extracted, your pet will need softened food and avoid hard chew toys or rough play for a few weeks, until the sutures have resorbed (dissolved). After that, they are able to resume their usual diet.

If root canal therapy is performed, the recovery period is much shorter. Your pet can resume normal activities and diet the following day. To ensure that treatment was successful,  dental x-rays should be taken on a tooth treated with root canal therapy 6-12 months after treatment and periodically thereafter whenever their teeth are cleaned.

Regular Dental Exams

While all dogs should have a dental exam performed on an annual or semi-annual basis if your dog has developed a tooth abscess, more frequent dental visits may be recommended for the health and safety of your pup. 

Give us a Call 

If you think your dog may have an abscessed tooth, give us a call to schedule a visit to Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery with Dr. Tony Woodward, the only board-certified veterinary dentist in all of Montana—located in Bozeman. We are available Monday through Thursday from 7:30AM to 5:30PM. 


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