Antibiotics are an important medicine that can be life-saving for young children, but like many drugs, they can have some unwanted side effects. Tetracycline-based antibiotics can cause staining and discoloration of the teeth when used in children under the age of eight. This can be quite upsetting for the child, potentially leading to low self-esteem or teasing from friends at school. Luckily, there are a few teeth whitening methods you can choose from to combat the discoloration.

Alternative antibiotics

If your child is ill, then it's absolutely essential that they take all the medication they're prescribed. However, if tooth discoloration is a big worry, then you could ask your doctor whether there is an alternative treatment not based on tetracycline. Depending on what problems your child has, there may be other types of antibiotics that can be equally as effective, without tooth discoloration as a side effect. Your doctor will take your concerns into account when recommending the best treatment.

Regular professional cleaning

Once discoloration has occurred, there are plenty of ways to brighten up your child's teeth for a whiter appearance. Make regular appointments at the dentist, and ask for a thorough professional clean. Your dentist will be able to advise you on how often cleaning should be carried out. You may also be recommended a mild whitening toothpaste to use at home. It's important to make sure that all the products you choose are safe for children. You shouldn't use any at-home bleaching products on your child, as these carry the risk of harmful effects, like increased tooth sensitivity and accidental swallowing.

Whitening when older

Since the staining caused by tetracycline antibiotics is permanent, it's worth planning for the future now. If your child is particularly distressed by the color of their teeth, then professional whitening may be a good option once they are old enough—usually the late teenage years. This is something for your child to look forward to, and reassures them that the condition of their teeth can be improved. Ask your dentist about the different types of whitening treatment available—there's traditional bleaching, or the newer options of laser or power whitening. The overall cost, effectiveness and length of treatment will vary, so it's important make the right choice. Bear in mind that most whitening treatments will last for up to three years, so you'll need to factor in the cost of additional appointments in the future.