Do Tetracycline Antibiotics Stain Your Teeth?

I've heard that both Doxycycline and other Tetracycline antibiotics stain your teeth yellow. Is there any truth to this or is this just a rumor?

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Do Tetracycline Antibiotics Stain Your Teeth?

Dear Dr. B, Recently, I was prescribed Doxycycline (antibiotic) by my dermatologist. I take a pretty high dose for my acne - the treatment is supposed to last for about 3 months. I've heard that both Doxycycline and other Tetracycline antibiotics stain your teeth yellow. Is there any truth to this or is this just a rumor? Thanks! - Anisha B.

A: Anisha, Thanks for the question. It’s an important one as it does not get discussed often enough. You’ve heard correctly; Tetracycline based antibotics, which include Doxycycline, can greatly disfigure the teeth of children under the age of 10. Most times, it just shows up as staining and banding of the teeth, but in extreme cases, it can literally change the shape and structural composition of teeth. This leads to loss of tooth structure and the need for crowns as soon as the early adult years. The good news is that after age 10, you can take these Tetracycline based antibiotics and not worry about this staining. Pediatricians and physicians in this country know not to prescribe this to patients whose teeth are still developing, but in many developing countries, and even China, Tetracycline drugs are prescribed to children under age 10, causing severely stained teeth and sometimes disfigurement of the teeth.

The guideline of age 10 includes the fetus as well: Pregnant women, at any age, must not take Tetracycline or Doxycycline. Teeth form inside the womb and the antibiotic appears inside the teeth of the fetus (which are forming inside the jawbone). Typically, these teeth cannot just be whitened; they need to be completely covered with crowns in order to cover up the severe staining. In extreme cases, the teeth could be so weak in structure that they could break and need to be removed and replaced with implants.

If you’re over age 10, your teeth will not be stained however there are other effects, among them photosensitivity, skin reactions, and anaphylaxis. This antibiotic is not just for acne; it’s given for Lyme disease, malaria, and urinary tract infections (UTI).

You are in the clear in terms of staining after the age of 10. Speak with your dermatologist immediately about an alternative if you are or decide to become pregnant. All I can say, Anisha, having been a teenager and now a dentist, let’s just be thankful that you can’t get pimples on your teeth.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Read Next: The Only All-Natural Teeth Whitening Methods I Recommend

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  1. Hey Dr B,

    Yepp, I must say its nice to have “clear teeth”. Haha!

    Thank you for such an informative response. This has definitely given a lot for me to talk about with my dermatologist during my next appointment. The alternative to the tetra antibiotics is Accutane (for me, at least) which as I’m sure you heard, is a pretty severe acne drug with a lot of side effects. I want to stay far, far away from that.

    Maybe it’s about time I try more natural methods of skincare! Thanks for all your help.


  2. The tetracyclines can stain a permanent tooth and the soft tissues. The mechanism different than that during odontogenesis.

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    • Stuart Smith says:

      I had this drug as a 3 year old in the UK during the 1960’s. It stained all my second teeth yellow and when my front second teeth came through one of them came through twisted due to a growth behind it. I had an operation to remove this and it turned out to be a calcium casual containing another set of teeth, very scary stuff.

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  8. My teeth were pretty white when I started taking Minocycline at age 45. My teeth are now gray with banding. I recently moved and went to a new dentist who commented on my “tetracycline stained teeth”. I can’t be the only adult this has happened to.

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