Can you effectively bleach teeth with tetracycline stain?

Question: My teeth are stained with tetracycline. Will teeth bleaching whiten my teeth?

Answer: Tetracycline stain is tough, but if you are persistent enough, yes, you can bleach these teeth somewhat. The best treatment for tetracycline teeth stains, however, especially if it is severe, is porcelain veneers. But if you are determined enough to bleach for months, you can get a reasonable amount of whitening of tetracycline stain. You need to realize, however, that the end result will still not appear completely natural. Your teeth won’t have that natural sparkling translucency of naturally bright teeth. And it will require months of whitening your teeth every day with the at-home tray system.

Don’t undertake this unless you have a persistent personality that doesn’t get easily discouraged, because it will get discouraging. You will continue week after week without seeing much change. But if you are persistent, you can achieve significant whitening over a period of months.

And I would recommend against doing the in-office power bleaching such as Brite Smile or Zoom whitening. It will require too many visits and will quickly become very expensive, and it isn’t more effective—it’s only faster, and you’re paying someone else to do the work for you. I recommend that you do the dentist-supervised at-home tooth whitening, where you can take the trays home and do it yourself. Your only extra expense beyond the initial fee will then be the extra refills you need to buy to continue whitening. That should be a reasonable expense. Expect to go through several tubes of whitening gel.

Don’t waste your money on whitening toothpastes. They will have absolutely no effect on tetracycline stain. Tetracycline stain is deeply and tightly embedded inside the tooth. Toothpastes only work on the outside of the tooth.

Further Information

Read Dr. Hall’s answer to a question from a patient with bonding over tetracycline stains wondering what to do.
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This content was written by Dr. David Hall.