Selecting a Shade with Confidence

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...or is it the camera?


Selecting the appropriate shade for a patient's crown or bridge can sometimes by trying. There are many factors that contribute to the way a patient's teeth look, which can result in varied outcomes. To assist with obtaining an objective shade, take into consideration the following factors:


Light: Location, Color & Temperature, Source

Ensure the source of light is directed relative to the patient as they would normally be seen (i.e. have the patient sit up in the chair, and use passive light from above). When possible, use natural light, or use color-corrected bulbs.

Surrounding Objects: Clothing of the Patient, Operatory Walls

If a patient is wearing a red shirt and pink lipstick in a room with yellow walls, the light will reflect off of these objects and onto the teeth, presenting a skewed shade.

Shade-Taker: Get a 2nd Opinion from another Assistant

Everyone's eyes interpret color differently. It never hurts to ask a second opinion.

Digital Camera: Shade Tabs, Clarity

When taking a shade photo to send to your dental lab, include the shade tabs in the photo, holding them up as they would read on adjacent teeth (match Gingival to Gingival, etc.). Taking a photo of any characterization, such as fluorosis, aids the dental technician in achieving a perfect match.

TIP: Review your photos to ensure they're not blurry before sending the patient home.

Prep Shade: Shade Tabs

If an all-porcelain crown is requested, providing a stump or prep shade is extremely helpful to the dental lab technician in determining the material shade. Most all-porcelain materials are translucent, allowing light to shine through and reflect off the prepped tooth - if the prep is dark, that darkness will be reflected back through the porcelain material and change the overall shade of the restoration, resulting in a remake.


Referenced from: Charles J. Goodacre, DDS, MSD; Paul A. Sagel, BSChE "Dental Esthetics in Practice:

Part 3 - Understanding Color & Shade Selection" Crest® Oral-B®

at dentalcare.com Continuing Education Course, Revised October 27, 2011