Tooth Root Abscess – My cat's face is swollen

Author: Jason Nicholas, BVetMed

Published: November 4, 2015

Updated: June 15, 2021

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cat swollen face tooth root abscessWhen bacteria get to the root of your cat's teeth

Many a cat is brought to the veterinary office because of a sudden swelling under one of their eyes, possibly accompanied by a decrease in their energy level and appetite.

Though it’s not always the case, these swellings are often the result of a tooth root abscess — an infection that occurs at the base of the tooth, under the gumline.

A tooth root abscess is easily confirmed on dental x-rays. An abscess happens when bacteria gain access to the deeper structures of the tooth, where the local environment can be ideal for bacterial growth. The infection causes inflammation and starts to erode the tooth structures.

As they would be for you, tooth root abscesses are painful for cats. They require treatment from your veterinarian — and ideally sooner rather than later.

Safe pain medications and antibiotics (don't give human pain relief) can initially help to control the infection and pain, but ultimately anesthesia to evaluate and remove the offending tooth is necessary to truly help your cat.

To help prevent tooth root abscesses from affecting your cat:

The video below demonstrates how to gradually get your cat used to brushing. Even if they don't tolerate a toothbrush, getting the toothpaste (its enzymes) on as many teeth as possible with your finger helps break down the plaque.


If your cat already has significant inflammation of their gums or plaque and tartar on their teeth

Your cat will benefit tremendously from an anesthetized dental cleaning with your veterinarian prior to starting any at-home dental care procedures.

After all, it can be quite painful to start brushing your cat’s teeth when their gums are already inflamed, and no amount of tooth brushing or dental treats are going to remove plaque/tartar that’s already taken hold.

Please note that dental cleanings done without anesthesia aren’t very effective and can be dangerous.

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