Tetracycline staining is usually a cosmetic problem, but it may also be a structural or shape problem for your teeth. What causes this condition and what can you do to reduce it?

How does tetracycline staining occur?

It may surprise you to learn how tetracycline staining happens. A person with a tetracycline stain inside their teeth had a mother who had to take the antibiotic tetracycline when she was pregnant because of a bacterial infection.

She may have taken it without knowing she was pregnant. Or, she may have had to take it because there was no other choice. When tetracycline, or some tetracycline analog was taken, the baby ended up with tooth stains. This could be a bright yellow to brown or even greenish-gray tinge.

Sometimes the entire body of the tooth is affected. It also can look like horizontal bands of color on the tooth. This type of staining can also occur if when you were given tetracycline, a tetracycline analogue, or an antibiotic called ciprofloxacin to treat an infection while you were a child.

The antibiotic kills large numbers of bacteria, which ends up staining parts of the teeth as they develop. After a person is about ten years old, he or she can take tetracycline without any concern for developmentally-stained teeth. Doctors know that these antibiotics can cause internal stains to teeth, so they try to not prescribe them to pregnant women or children under ten. In some cases, however, these antibiotics must be used because there is no other choice.

How to remove tetracycline stains from teeth

If you suffer from tetracycline staining, usually only the color of your teeth is affected. However, sometimes the shape of your teeth and their structural composition can be affected. The most common treatments include:

  • KöR bleaching
  • Porcelain veneers
  • Full-coverage dental crowns

KöR bleaching

Currently, the initial treatment that is available for tetracycline staining (when there is no problem with the shape or structural composition of the teeth) is KöR bleaching. This treatment is done while you sleep, over a period of six weeks. KöR bleaching is much stronger than the one-visit professional whitening, or in the trays that dentists give their patients for at-home bleaching.

Neither in-office whitening nor the regular at-home option will have any effect on tetracycline stains. KöR bleaching is meant to take out the yellow and brown staining, and it will mute any greenish-gray staining. KöR bleaching requires maintenance throughout the patient’s life, since the stain can relapse. However, KöR bleaching is much less invasive than the secondary treatment: porcelain veneers.

Porcelain veneers

Another option is to have your dentist treat your teeth with porcelain veneers. At AZ Dentist, we use diamond-precise instruments to prepare your tooth surface for a veneer. To prepare the tooth means to remove some of your tooth’s structure. We remove usually between .25mm and .5mm of tooth. This is wafer-thin. We are able to do a modified veneer in the case of tetracycline staining that removes up to .75mm of your tooth structure.

The preparation for tetracycline staining involve going slightly under the gum line so that no dark halos appear when the veneers are placed. We go in between the teeth, and not just on their fronts, so that no dark stains will be visible from any angle or at the gum line.

Further, at AZ Dentist, we work with a special esthetic dental lab to create a layered porcelain veneer. The bottom layer is opaque white, and the top layers are translucent. The more tooth structure that is removed, the more space the lab will have to do a layered technique.

In mild staining cases, or in those where we have started with KöR bleaching, we may be able to remove less tooth structure to get results. In certain cases, a patient may have teeth that recline away from the lip and towards the tongue. For these patients, we will be able to remove even less tooth to get the results that we want.

In all cases of tetracycline staining, we will use an opaque cement to attach the veneer on a tetracycline-stained tooth. This will further help block the stained tooth from view, since tetracycline stain