Eliminating Teeth Stains Resistant to Bleaching
If you have tried bleaching your teeth but haven't seen any improvement in their whiteness, you may have tetracycline-induced teeth discoloration. Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic used to treat various bacterial infections since 1948. Tetracyclines are effective in treating skin, bowel, urinary tract, and other conditions, but they can cause tooth discoloration if taken during the developmental stages of tooth formation.
Tetracycline and its Impact on Teeth Discoloration
Tetracycline can bind with calcium ions, incorporating it into teeth, bones, and cartilage. This results in a brownish-gray discoloration of teeth or the appearance of horizontal stain bands. The discoloration may worsen under exposure to ultraviolet light, such as sunlight.
Fortunately, the scientific community has uncovered the causes of tooth discoloration. As a result, doctors have become cautious about prescribing Tetracycline to pregnant women and children.
Treating Deep Teeth Discoloration or Tetracycline Stains
Tetracycline stains appear gray or dark brown on teeth and require a potent bleaching agent to achieve a whiter appearance. Although in-office teeth whitening can lighten tetracycline-stained teeth, the final result will depend on the initial color.
In general, Bleaching may not be very effective in these cases. While the white areas of the teeth may become significantly lighter, the dark stained areas typically do not show significant improvement.
If you have horizontal bands of gray stains, the gray colors will not discolor, the white areas of your teeth will lighten, and the horizontal bars will be more visible after bleaching.
Because of these limitations, we do not recommend using bleach on teeth stained with tetracycline. Even if minor improvements are possible, the results are often short-lived and can quickly revert.
Alternatives for Unsuccessful Teeth Whitening
If professional teeth bleaching has not achieved the desired color for your teeth, cosmetic dentistry offers comprehensive treatments such as crowns and veneers.
These treatments can conceal dark discoloration and provide a brighter, more uniform appearance to your teeth without stain bands. You can achieve a bright, white smile with no prep (Lumineers) or porcelain veneers.
Options for Improving Teeth Discoloration
If you are dissatisfied with the color of your teeth after a professional teeth bleaching procedure, comprehensive dental work such as crowns or veneers may help give you a brighter, more attractive smile. These treatments use opaque porcelain to block the dark color of the tetracycline stain by bonding the thin porcelain to your teeth.
However, this method may not provide a natural-looking result, as the porcelain must be made white and opaque to block the dark color effectively. Just placing veneers like those who do not have the dark teeth caused by Tetracycline often results in a fake, temporary appearance.
Traditional veneers or crowns with some tooth reduction may be necessary for a more natural, translucent look. The dark color of the tetracycline stain tends to get darker as it penetrates deeper into the tooth, so a thicker porcelain layer is required to block the color and create a translucent effect.
Creating natural-looking teeth can create a dilemma, as thicker veneers or crowns may lead to a shadier color and more teeth structure reduction. Therefore, working with an experienced cosmetic dentist and laboratory technician is essential to achieve a natural-looking result with minimal teeth reduction.
Cosmetic dentistry with crowns or veneers is an option if you are unsatisfied with the results of professional teeth bleaching. The tooth preparation must be done correctly by the cosmetic dentist to achieve the desired result.
If the preparation is too shallow, the veneers may not effectively hide the dark stain:
- Veneers cannot block the dark color.
- If you can block the dark stain with thin veneers such as no-prep veneers, you most likely lose their natural appearance.
- You could have very bulky teeth (veneers) to block the dark stain and lose the tooth's natural transparency.
If the dentist preps too deep, it will weaken your teeth; worst-case scenario, it could cause root canal treatment.
It is best to avoid teeth whitening before getting dental veneers
When deciding to get veneers for tetracycline-stained teeth, it is essential to understand that you should avoid teeth whitening beforehand.
While whitening your teeth before getting veneers may seem like a good idea, the whitening effect is not permanent and will gradually fade away. The veneer's surface will have some translucency, even if they hide the dark tooth color, and over time, the tooth color underneath will start to show through as the whitening effect decreases.
It is therefore recommended not to whiten your teeth before getting veneers. If you have already done so, we may wait longer before starting the teeth stain treatment with veneers.
While it may seem straightforward to change the color of your teeth with whitening or veneers, there are many factors to consider when dealing with tetracycline-stained teeth to achieve a natural-looking result.
Dr. Shimizu is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. There are 419 dental professionals worldwide (Only four in Houston) as of 2022 who have achieved this prestigious honor.