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Phone: 989-773-3560

900 E Bellows St, Mt Pleasant, MI 48858


Why the Grey Teeth? Tetracycline

Dental Services Mt Pleasant, MITetracycline. Just about everyone who is 60 or younger has had it prescribed for everything from ear infections to strep throat. It’s been a popular antibiotic for over 60 years.

But there’s a problem with tetracycline — it stains the dentin of the teeth. If it hasn’t affected your teeth, you probably know someone with the telltale grey teeth that are caused by tetracycline. The first case of reported tooth discoloration in children occurred in 1956. Unfortunately, many, many other children had their teeth stained over the following decade before the connection was fully understood.

People think they can have their teeth whitened to remove the grey color, but that’s not true. This is because the dentin is where the reaction took place. The dentin is the interior portion of the tooth, beneath the enamel layer. While you can whiten the enamel, the dentin cannot be whitened (no matter the claims you may hear from some less than scrupulous dentists!). The only thing you can do about tetracycline-stained teeth is applied porcelain veneers over the fronts of the visible teeth.

Here’s some more information on tetracycline and staining.

How does tetracycline cause the teeth to be stained?

The timing and discoloration seem to be tied to tooth mineralization. In teeth, mineralization is an ongoing process, where teeth continually lose (demineralization) and gain (remineralization) minerals such as calcium. When teeth lose more minerals than they regain, that is when decay sets in. Mineralization is especially active in young, growing teeth. Ingested fluoride has been proven to help in this process by strengthening the developing permanent teeth from within. Fluoride applied directly to the teeth helps to speed remineralization on the tooth surface.

With tetracycline, research shows that if the teeth are exposed to tetracycline at a time of tooth mineralization or calcification, the tetracycline will bind to the calcium ions in the teeth. If this happens before the teeth erupt, the tetracycline that has bound to the calcium will cause the teeth to come out with an initial fluorescent yellow discoloration. Once these teeth are exposed to light, however, the tetracycline will oxidize, and the discoloration will change from fluorescent yellow to nonfluorescent brown over a period of a few months to years.

The location of the discoloration will correspond directly to the stage of tooth development at the time of the tetracycline exposure. Permanent teeth tend to show the discoloration with less color, but it is more widespread across the tooth.

Tetracycline is limited in its timeframe for use

Because of this tooth discoloration, tetracycline is not to be used by doctors during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy or in children up to 8 years of age. These ranges are the periods of calcification of the teeth.

Now you know why some people have grey-colored teeth. Tetracycline.

When it’s time for your next check-up, call Dr. Egger at 989-773-3560 to make your appointment.