Can Home Whitening Treatments Bleach Tetracycline Stains?

Staining on your teeth is sometimes caused by food, drinks and habits such as smoking. In some cases, it may be caused by medications, including some antibiotics such as tetracycline. If your mother took this kind of antibiotic when she was pregnant or you had regular doses in childhood when your teeth were developing, you may end up with discoloured teeth that you want to whiten. Do home whitening kits bleach out these stains, and what other whitening options do you have?

Home Whitening Kits and Tetracycline Staining

The first problem you have with tetracycline staining is its location. Unlike stains from food and drink, antibiotic staining doesn't sit on the surface of the tooth but is lodged inside it. While home whitening kits may be good at brightening up teeth with external imperfections, they aren't designed to deal with internal staining or discoloration and aren't really strong enough to make a difference.

By law, home whitening kits have a limited ability to bleach teeth. According to CHOICE, these treatments are not allowed to contain a mix of more than 6% hydrogen and 18% carbamide peroxide. The same limits apply to salon whitening treatments. This percentage limit reduces the effectiveness that a home whitening kit might have on tetracycline staining. While you can try to whiten your teeth with a DIY kit, you aren't likely to see a significant improvement in your discolouration.

Other Treatment Options for Tetracycline Stains

Although you may not be able to deal with tetracycline staining yourself, your dentist may have more effective options for you. For example, your dentist may suggest that you try a professional whitening treatment or other cosmetic solution to cover up the staining.

Dentists can use stronger whitening concentrations of up to 38% hydrogen peroxide and have other tools in their arsenal that may help deal with antibiotic stains. For example, your dentist may feel that a whitening treatment in surgery combined with whitening trays that you wear at night may be a good solution. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, laser techniques have had some success at dealing with tetracycline staining, and your dentist may use lasers during the whitening procedure to boost its results.

If your dentist doesn't feel that a regular whitening treatment will have good enough effects or if you prefer a different solution, you may want to consider other options. For example, the following treatments are also effective on tetracycline-stained teeth:

  • Internal bleaching procedures that whiten the tooth from the inside out.
  • Veneers that cover the front surface of the tooth.
  • Crowns that cover the whole tooth.

Contact a cosmetic dentist for more information.