The amount of time it takes for a dog’s infected or broken tooth to abscess and result in potential bacterial infection varies based on the dog’s overall health and the cause of the abscess. Abscesses typically form on the gum line above whatever tooth has suffered damage, usually due to either injury or periodontal disease. The faster the problem is identified and treated, the better the outcome for your pup.
Identifying an Abscess
An abscess initially presents as a raw red sore above the affected tooth. As bacteria grows, the area will become further inflamed and fill with pus, eventually bursting and draining. The tissue surrounding the abscess is likely to be red, irritated, swollen and warm to the touch.
If your dog breaks or cracks a tooth or has severe periodontal disease, such as gingivitis, it can trigger an abscess. An abscess is likely to materialize faster if your dog has a compromised immune system or an underlying medical condition that makes him susceptible to infection. Left untreated, an abscess can become painful, and bacteria buildup can lead to a blood infection that has the potential to damage vital organ systems.
A dog experiencing tooth or gum pain may chew on just one side of his mouth or drop food while he's eating because he doesn't want to bite down hard or grasp the morsels too tight. You may also find your dog pawing at his face, trying to ease the discomfort. An abscess can also present with excessive drooling and possibly swelling. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, contact your vet, who may be able to treat your dog himself or refer you to a specialist that focuses on canine oral health.
The first thing your vet will want to do is to get potential infection under control. This is typically done through administering oral antibiotics. Depending on the nature of the injury or condition that caused the abscess, he may recommend having a damaged or infected tooth extracted. This is done under anesthesia.
You can help protect your dog against abscesses by maintaining good oral hygiene. Clean your dog’s teeth regularly with a canine tooth paste and don't let him chew on anything hard that has the potential to crack teeth, like animal hooves. Ask your vet to examine your dog’s teeth when he conducts his annual physical, or find a veterinary dentist and go for regular checkups.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.