Tetracyclines form a coloured complex with calcium, which is deposited in bones, and in the enamel and dentine of teeth. This complex can permanently stain developing teeth a disfiguring greyish-brown or yellow depending upon the particular tetracycline used.1 2 This risk lasts from the 14th week of gestation to 7 years of age when the crowns are calcifying. During this time discoloration is most likely to follow prolonged or repeated courses, but it can occur after a single short course. In one sample of 1168 children the teeth of one-fifth were discoloured by a tetracycline.3 Despite this accepted fact, manufacturers offer little help on how to protect those at risk, even with preparations designed primarily for children.
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