Tetracyclines are a unique class of antibiotics which also have additional effects including anti-inflammatory, anti-resorptive and substantive within the root canal. There has been a long-held view that tetracycline medicaments discolour teeth and should be avoided. The evidence base around this topic was explored, including a review of the methodology used in laboratory studies.
A search of PubMed, Medline and Scopus databases was conducted to identify studies of demeclocycline and doxycycline medicaments used in root canal therapy. An analysis of the methodology used in these studies was performed to determine if these replicate current clinical practice. The related literature on mechanisms of tetracycline stability and the effects of light, oxidation, moisture and chemical interactions was examined. Studies investigating the effects of Ledermix paste on segments of bovine dentine and avulsed or reimplanted teeth as well as combinations with other antibiotics were excluded from this review.
Even though demeclocycline medicament pastes were introduced in 1962, the first laboratory studies of discolouration were not done until 2000. All later studies followed a similar approach, which included exposure to sodium hypochlorite for up to 30 minutes and storage in moist conditions with 100% humidity. Staining during dark storage and enhanced staining on exposure to light were reported, indicating multiple pathways of degradation of demeclocycline and its reaction products.
Light, moisture and oxidation are the key factors which drive discolouration from demeclocycline. Clinical issues from tooth staining can be prevented by removal of medicament pastes from the access cavity, and placement of a sound interim restoration. Use of a doxycycline paste obviates concerns of staining. Laboratory assessments of the potential for staining should replicate in vivo conditions.