Tetracycline and Grey Teeth

several different types of pills in blister packs

Have you ever noticed that many people born before the 1980’s have greyish stained teeth? Chances are, you have noticed this discoloration and have wondered what the cause was. Before the realization of the effects caused by Tetracycline, physicians prescribed this fix-all antibiotic to people of all ages. As a result, 3-6% of Americans are dealing with the discoloration effects this drug causes to developing teeth.


Tetracycline and children

Tetracycline’s main use is to treat infections and clear up acne. Before the 1980’s people of all ages were prescribed this antibiotic. But, when used by pregnant women and children, Tetracycline causes severe discoloration of teeth. During the development of teeth, dentin-forming cells absorb Tetracycline and its similar derivatives, Minocycline and Doxycycline. Because dentin determines the underlying color of your teeth, developing teeth exposed to antibiotics will show a yellow-brown or blue-grey color. Depending on the length of exposure, body weight, and age, discoloration can affect an entire tooth or appear in horizontal bands. Medication taken in periodic courses is more likely to show banded discoloration.


tetracycline discoloration- child

Extreme cases of Tetracycline use

Though Tetracycline is safe for non-pregnant people over the age of 8, long-term use can still cause tooth discoloration. This is a rare exception but has appeared in cases of chronic Tetracycline use. This later-appearing discoloration presents similar greyish tints occurring as a whole or in bands. To avoid late-onset Tetracycline discoloration, abstain from long-term use of this antibiotic.


Present day

Thankfully, scientists identified the effects of Tetracycline drugs and physicians can safely prescribe it. Today, doctors avoid prescribing these drugs to children with developing teeth and to expecting mothers. Because of this, people rarely encounter discoloration of this nature anymore. Sadly, there are many people around the world who were exposed to Tetracycline before the 1980’s, prior to anyone realizing its harmful effects.

There is good news, though! Tooth discoloration was once hard to treat, but today dentists are much more equipped to help. Whitening options are available for at-home treatment or in-office care, and veneers are available as an alternative to bleaching.


before and after of teeth whitening, one side of the smile is discolored but the other is white


Maybe you have been dealing with grey teeth for years, or maybe you want to give the gift of a whiter smile to someone you love. In either scenario, Greenspoint Dental offers solutions. Zoom! Whitening is a painless one-hour procedure with proven results. During the summer we are offering Zoom! treatments for $195. This is a great opportunity to reverse the damage caused by Tetracycline, and to diminish discoloration.

If you have questions or aren’t sure what whitening treatment is best suited for you, don’t hesitate to call the staff at Greenspoint Dental.