Antibiotics are used to treat a wide variety of ailments — prescription drugs help us battle infections, stay healthy and even prolong our lives. But unfortunately, many medications aren’t without side effects. Although drugs are meant to help us get better, some may produce unwanted dental problems.
One such medication is the antibiotic tetracycline. Used to combat bacterial infections, acne and “traveler’s diarrhea,” tetracycline was widely used on children from the 1950s until about 1980. We now know that this medication has been linked to tooth discoloration among young children. Many adults also currently suffer from tetracycline stains on their teeth.
How Did This Get Here?
Tetracycline teeth stains develop on permanent teeth while they are still forming under the gum line. During development, the drug becomes calcified in the tooth, generating tetracycline tooth stains. Children are susceptible to tetracycline tooth stains from the time they are in utero until the age of 8. Since teeth start to develop before we’re even born, pregnant women should not take tetracycline to prevent the possibility of the drug affecting the unborn baby’s oral health.
Gray or brown in color, these deep, dark stains either cover the entire tooth or appear as a pattern of horizontal stripes. Because they form during tooth development, tetracycline teeth stains are embedded in the tooth’s enamel and inner layers. This classifies them as intrinsic stains — discoloration that comes from inside the tooth. Although harmless, tetracycline stains are obvious and permanent, often causing embarrassment and low self-esteem in those who suffer from them.
Treatments to Remove Tetracycline Stains
Tetracycline stains can be very difficult to remove and, depending on the deepness of the stain, may not respond to some treatments. There are a few cosmetic dentistry treatments to correct these stains.
These treatments include:
- Porcelain Veneers
- Tooth Whitening
Mild Tetracycline stains can be treated with tooth whitening treatments and be significantly reduced in a few office visits. Other stains will need porcelain veneers to restore the natural beauty of the teeth. Several cosmetic dentistry treatments can be combined to create a smile makeover for the best results of treating dental problems like Tetracycline stains.