If you've ever suffered the pain of an abscessed tooth, you have a pretty good idea of what Kitty's going through. Not only are tooth abscesses painful, but left untreated the bacteria in the abscess can potentially spread throughout your cat's body. Vets double as physicians and dentists for pets.
Kitty's abscess might be caused by a broken tooth, periodontal disease or feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions. The latter, known as FORL, are painful sores under the cat's gum line. Periodontal disease occurs because of plaque on the teeth, with the first stage consisting of gingivitis. This involves inflammation of the gingivae, better known as the gums. Plaque that remains on the teeth eventually hardens, becoming tartar.
Sometimes Kitty's abscessed tooth is fairly obvious, as one entire side of his jaw swells up. By that point, the abscess is quite far along and may burst. Earlier signs of a brewing abscess include bad breath, drooling, loss of appetite, bleeding in the mouth and pawing his face. Because his mouth hurts, he probably isn't grooming himself and will start looking unkempt. He might also start sneezing a lot. If you look into his mouth, you might see swelling and even pus in the area of a tooth. If the facial swelling bursts, you could have a real mess on your hands. It's amazing how much blood and pus is released when an abscess bursts from internal pressure.
Your vet confirms a tooth abscess via physical examination and X-rays. She'll anesthetize Kitty and remove the tooth. She'll also clean out the abscessed area, which generally forms a large hole. Kitty must stay on antibiotics for a couple of weeks to prevent infection. If an abscess is especially large, the vet might prescribe antibiotics first to reduce swelling and get rid of the pus, then perform the tooth extraction.
The only way to prevent a tooth abscess is by keeping Kitty's pearly whites as clean and healthy as possible. Besides brushing Kitty's teeth with special fish or chicken-flavored toothpaste, check his teeth and gums frequently. If you see any warning signs of tooth or gum disease, take Kitty to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment before the condition gets out of hand. If Kitty doesn't tolerate tooth brushing, take him to the vet twice a year for a dental checkup and cleaning, much as you do with your own dentist.
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