Tetracycline is a prescribed antibiotic that is used to treat many different infections and even acne.


Which infections does Tetracycline treat?

Tetracycline is used to treat cholera, plague, malaria, chlamydia and syphilis to name a few. It is well known in the dental world for having adverse side effects to the teeth, this includes a multitude of different issues but most commonly staining. The staining severity can also vary! Some are certainly more severe than others. This doesn't always happen, staining can depend on the length of treatment, dosage and the stage of mineralization.


Wait!! I'm on this medication should I be worried about my teeth?

Well that depends on your current situation, most commonly children are at the highest risk. The next highest risk is women who are pregnant beyond four months. It's even recommended that children not take the medication at all due to being the highest risk for staining. Tetracycline is known to cause staining primarily to teeth that are in developmental stages of secondary and primary teeth. However if this makes you feel any better the overall prevalence of staining occurring is just 3% to 4%.


How exactly does the staining occur?

Buckle up we are going to get a little technical here, staining occurs when the teeth are exposed to Tetracycline. Calcium ions are actually binding to the teeth during development, specifically during the mineralizing or calcifying process. Tetracycline then settles into the calcium within the developing teeth and then ultimately ends up in the predentin. If this occurs before the teeth break the gumline, the teeth will then show an initial yellow coloring. Staining can vary greatly in severity it's been broken down into degrees for better understanding. First degree would be light yellow, gray or even brown. Second degree would show darker, more uniform discoloration without banding. Third degree would carry intense pigmentation and present intense dark stains with highly pronounced bands. 


Is there a way to whiten the teeth after the staining?

It really depends on the severity of the staining. Sometimes whitening the teeth is absolutely viable but if the staining is far beyond that you may be recommended veneers, crowns and even composite bonding. These methods have been used to cover the more intense stains routinely.