Dental Abscess in Cats

What is a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is a localised collection of pus, (a foul-smelling thick white/yellow liquid that is primarily made up of dead white blood cells and bacteria) located within the tooth or surrounding tissues.

Dental abscesses can occur for several reasons. Bacteria from a dental cavity descend into the inner part of the tooth and gum, resulting in the body mounting an immune response and walling off the affected area. Trauma can occur as a result of an accident (hit by a car) or biting down on something hard.

FORL lesions – Also known as resorptive lesions, feline resorptive lesions, neck lesions, cavities, cervical line lesions and invasive resorptions, these painful lesions are one of the most common dental problems in cats. Lesions usually begin under the gingival margin and are caused by odontoclasts which are cells whose role is to absorb the bone and roots of deciduous (baby) teeth. In cats withFORL, the odontoclasts reabsorb the adult teeth. Lesions typically occur under the gum line, making early identification difficult. FORL affects the premolars most often, and the cat will display extreme sensitivity if the lesions are touched.

There are three types of dental abscess:

  • Gingival abscess: An abscess of the gum tissue.
  • Periodontal abscess: An abscess of the gum.
  • Periapical abscess: An abscess of the dental pulp.



Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat, carefully paying attention to the mouth and face.

In most cases, it will be possible to diagnose a dental abscess during an examination. However, a dental x-ray will be necessary to evaluate the extent of the abscess and the condition of the underlying dental tissue.


The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the abscess.

Drain and clean: If the underlying tissue is healthy, the veterinarian can drain and clean a small dental abscess. This involves lancing the abscess and draining the pus, then cleaning the pocket, packing with antibiotics and closing.

Root canal:  If the underlying tissue is diseased, a root canal may be recommended to save the tooth. The infected tissue in the centre (canal) of the tooth is removed, the canal is irrigated and then filled with a polymer and sealed with cement.

Extraction: The cat will receive sedation; the veterinarian will lance the abscess, flush it with saline and extract the affected tooth.

Home care

The veterinarian will send your cat home with a care sheet, antibiotics, and painkillers, administer as per instructions.


Proper dental hygiene is essential not only in preventing dental abscesses but many other dental problems such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. Regularly clean your cat’s teeth with a cat toothbrush and cat toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste on your cat. Include in his diet raw chicken necks or legs chopped up cuts of cheap beef; these foods help to clean the teeth. Speak to your veterinarian about prescription “oral care” biscuits. Regularly check your cat’s mouth for signs of tartar or dental problems.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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