Solutions for Tetracycline-Stained Teeth
Question: “Dr. Arnold, I am forty-three years old, and I have suffered from the effects of tetracycline-stained teeth my entire life. My dark teeth even prevent me from smiling. Why did this happen to me, and what are my treatment options?”
Answer: Millions of people around the world have been affected by the use of the antibiotic, tetracycline, over the past several decades. When used by pregnant women and small children, it can cause mild to severe staining of the developing teeth. The staining generally affects the enamel and the underlying dentin.
The severity of staining is related to the type of tetracycline used and the total quantity of drug that is absorbed by the developing teeth. The appearance is often “band-like” if the antibiotic was administered in courses, and it is more homogenous (evenly colored) if the use is prolonged. In fact, if the period of use was brief, the staining may only affect the part of the tooth being formed at that time.
Unfortunately, tetracycline staining can have a profound impact on the self-image of people affected by this condition. This is especially true in today’s society where an attractive smile is associated with health and vitality. When children are teased by others about their dark teeth, it can have a catastrophic impact on their self-confidence at an early age. Sometimes these insecurities and negative feelings continue into adulthood.
Mild tetracycline staining that is a uniform yellow, brown, or gray in nature can sometimes be decreased with teeth whitening. When the staining is a bit darker, bonding (covering the teeth with a tooth-colored filling material) the teeth is sometimes possible, but it will often create an unnatural, monochromatic, or opaque appearance.
To improve the appearance of severely tetracycline-stained teeth, crowns or porcelain veneers are usually necessary. Porcelain fused to metal crowns will block out the dark tooth structure underneath very effectively, but may not be as conservative or aesthetic as porcelain veneers. Modern porcelain veneer systems and techniques can effectively cover up the darkness while creating a natural, vital appearance.
Correcting the effects of tetracycline staining can be challenging. However, when done properly, this is tremendously rewarding for both the patient and dentist. Enhancing your smile can have long-term, life-changing benefits, especially when dark teeth have prevented you from smiling.
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at: 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304 or email them to: drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or many other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.