Options For Treating Tetracycline-Stained Teeth

6 February 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles


Tetracycline is a powerful antibiotic that's effective at eliminating harmful bacteria in the body. Unfortunately, it can cause side effects, one of which is the discoloration of teeth. Unlike more common sources of tooth stains such as food or smoking, the stains caused by tetracycline cannot be easily removed. However, there are a few things a cosmetic dentist can do to help minimize or eliminate the problem.

How Tetracycline Stains Teeth

The staining caused by tetracycline typically occurs prior to or during tooth growth. If a woman takes the antibiotic during pregnancy or it is given to a child under the age of 12, it will bind to the calcium in teeth during the mineralization process. Exposure to light will cause the teeth to gradually turn a shade of yellow, brown, or grey over a period of months to years. Since the front teeth typically get the most light, they will often look worse than the back teeth.

According to some statistics, tetracycline staining occurs in 3 to 4 percent of the population. Although it occurs primarily to kids, adults can develop tetracycline stains from long-term usage of the antibiotic.

Getting Rid of the Stains

Discoloration caused by tetracycline is notoriously difficult to treat because, as noted previously, the antibiotic incorporates itself into the tooth as it is growing. Therefore, staining caused by tetracycline does not respond to standard polishing or bleaching treatments. If you find the stains on your teeth particularly bothersome, though, there are a few treatments you can use to obtain the pearly white smile you want.

+Deep Bleaching

Deep bleaching involves a combination of in-office and at-home treatments. The dentist will perform several whitening and conditioning treatments in the office as well as create a custom whitening tray that seals out saliva and other contaminants for you to use at home. These treatments typically use a higher percentage of active ingredients (hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide) than other whitening systems. They also may have a better chance of permeating the surface of the tooth to get to the stains.

The amount of whitening you'll achieve depends on a number of factors, but the depth of staining caused by tetracycline will have the most impact on your results. People with light stains tend to achieve the best outcomes using deep bleaching. Additionally, you may need to continue the at-home whitening treatments to maintain the results.

The average cost of this treatment is $704. It may cost more or less depending on the dentist, location, and number of treatments needed.


An effective way for people with deeply stained teeth to obtain a whiter smile is to have them capped with veneers. Also called porcelain veneers or laminates, dental veneers are thin slivers of porcelain or resin designed to fit over natural teeth. They are available in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and lengths to change the appearance of your teeth to something more flattering to your face.

Unlike whitening, veneers can address multiple aesthetic issues you may have with your teeth, so they are a good option if you want to fix broken or misshapen teeth as well as improve their color. However, veneers are typically only used on the front teeth. Additionally, if the veneers are not properly color matched, the discoloration caused by tetracycline will either bleed through or worsen. Therefore, it's essential that you have the veneers done by a cosmetic dentist who has experience treating tetracycline-stained teeth.

The average cost of veneers is anywhere from $500 to $1,300 per tooth. However, they will last up to 10 years with proper care.

It can be very challenging eliminating stains caused by tetracycline. Depending on your particular condition, there may be other options available. It's best to speak to a cosmetic dentist in your area for suggestions and advice on how to handle your condition.

There are several go to sites for more information on cosmetic dentistry.