Tetracycline is incorporated with calcium into the dentin and enamel if administered during the period of dental formation. This may result in a discoloration of the teeth. This does not result in a functional disability, but there can be cosmetic problems for the affected patients.

Type of Tetracycline

Typical Color Seen

tetracycline, oxytetracycline, demethylchlortetracycline







Teeth stained by tetracyclines fluoresce a bright yellow in 254 nm ultraviolet light.


Timing of exposure:

(1) If tetracycline is administered before 10-11 months of age, the primary dentition is affected. Administration to pregnant mothers may affect the developing fetus, especially if taken after the 25th week of gestation.

(2) If tetracycline is administered after 10-11 months and up to the age of 7 years, then the permanent teeth are affected.

(3) Minocycline (used for acne) may discolor the permanent teeth in adolescents and adults.


The degree of discoloration is affected by the amount of tetracycline administered, and significant discoloration usually requires multiple courses of the antibiotic. If a patient has reduced drug excretion (for example, with renal dysfunction), then more pronounced discoloration may occur.



(1) If the discoloration is mild, bleaching of the teeth may be sufficient.

(2) If the discoloration is marked, or if the surface is pitted, then application of a veneer may be required.


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