Shade Selection in Clinical Dentistry

Patient satisfaction with the shade match is critical when constructing a restoration. The patient's satisfaction level may differ from that of the dentist. In recent years, aesthetic standards have risen substantially. In dental practice, determining color and tint is widely regarded as complex. Most prostheses fail on aesthetic grounds due to poor shade selection.

A solid understanding of color shade guides is required for perfect shade matching, yet dental experts' knowledge of color science is limited due to the multiple available shade guides. This in-depth examination provides light on shade selection, various shade guidelines, and shade-matching technologies routinely used in dental practice. Over the last 15 years, studies were included in PubMed/MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, Scopus, Dentistry, and Oral Science Source.

What is shade selection in clinical dentistry?

Esthetics has grown in popularity among dental practitioners and patients recently. The human brain can distinguish nearly one million different hues, and precise equipment capable of distinguishing approximately ten million different shades has been produced. Providing an attractive repair that merges symmetrically with the patient's surrounding teeth is critical. However, due to the wide variety of natural tooth colors, establishing an exact shade match between the prosthesis and natural teeth takes time and effort.

Many prostheses fail owing to poor shade choice; consequently, every dentist should be familiar with the shade selection method to achieve the best results. The shades of human teeth vary widely, and electronic systems recognize around 100,000 dental shades, while the human eye can only identify 1% of these shades.

Shades are challenging to express and communicate orally, so three variables are utilized to characterize the perception of light reflected off the tooth surface: hue, value, and chroma. Hue represents the main shade of the teeth (more yellowish or reddish), value measures the lightness or darkness of the tooth shade independent of the hue, and chroma is the attribute that separates the degree of vividness of the hue.

Key optical properties of teeth

The energy distribution of light has a significant impact on the sort of color perceived. The physician should aim to employ a light source that provides the whole spectrum of rays without any wavelength supremacy; since when an object is examined under lights that dominate in specific wavelengths (color bands), that particular color becomes prominent to the observer. Light sources are classified into three kinds.

  1. Incandescent Light: Light from an incandescent bulb emits a high concentration of yellow waves. It is unsuitable for color matching. It has a poor Color Rendering Index (CRI) (CRI).
  2. Fluorescent Light: This light emits a high concentration of blue wavelengths. It is unsuitable for color matching. It has a CRI ranging from 50 to 80.
  3. Natural Daylight: Northern daylight is considered the greatest because it emits the complete spectrum of white light. It serves as the standard against which other light sources are measured. It has a CRI of close to 100.

The majority of dentist offices have both incandescent and fluorescent lighting.

Northern daylight, which can be close to full-spectrum white light, is sometimes regarded as the "normal" benchmark for measuring light from other sources. It has a near to 100 color rendering index (CRI).

On a scale of 1 to 100, the color rendering index specifies how well a specific light source renders color compared to a specified standard source.

Color temperature, which is proportional to the color of a standard black body when heated, is another light source reference standard. The temperature of a color is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) or absolute (0°K = -273°C).

The typical color temperature of northern daylight is roughly 6500°K; however, this varies depending on the time of day, cloud cover, humidity, and pollution.

Although daylight is frequently used to compare different light sources, never use direct sunlight to shade your teeth. The distribution of light waves from the sun is affected by the time of day, humidity, and pollution. Morning and evening incident light scatters blue and green waves, allowing only the longer waves to reach the atmosphere. As a result, daylight at dawn and dusk is high in yellow and orange but low in blues and greens. On a bright day, northern daylight around noon is regarded best since the incident daylight is most balanced within the Visible Light Spectrum.

Metamerism: The issue of metamerism is another part of lighting. Under one type of light, two items may appear to be the same color, but under another kind of light, they may appear completely different. This is known as metamerism. Metamerism can be avoided by choosing a shade and validating it under multiple lighting situations (for example, natural daylight and fluorescent light).

Key optical properties of teeth

  1. Fluorescence is the spontaneous emission of light at a longer wavelength caused by the absorption of light by a substance. Teeth are fluorescent because when subjected to Ultra-Violet light, they emit visible light.
  2. Opalescence refers to a translucent material's propensity to appear blue in reflected light and red-orange in transmitted light. The opalescent look is based on the translucency behavior of natural teeth.
  3. Translucency is the transmission and diffusion of light through an item such that no definitive picture beyond the object is visible.

Guidelines for clinical shade selection

Shade guides are another name for shade-matching devices. Color matching should be done systematically to achieve precision, homogeneity, and predictability, which are critical in aesthetic dentistry. The order of shade selection is value; first, chroma second, and hue last.

Operating Site Lighting

Sunlight in the middle of the day is best for shadow selection because it comprises an approximately equal blend of all wavelengths of light, as opposed to morning and evening exposures, which are higher in reddish and yellow wavelengths. Artificial light should be utilized to replicate sunshine in clinics that do not have enough access to sunlight. Although no artificial light lamp can completely replace the natural light, it is acceptable for clinical use. Before choosing a shade, determine how much light the patients are exposed to daily.


Bright colors should be avoided because they interfere with appropriate color matching by altering the hues in reflected light. Lipstick should be removed so that color perception is not affected. A very light grey color makes an excellent background for color matching. Surfaces with high gloss cause distracting glares and should be avoided. A drape can conceal unappealing colors in the patient's clothing and jewelry.

Condition of the Teeth

Plaque, other deposits, and surface stains should be removed from the tooth of interest and surrounding teeth. Because dehydration causes a whiter look, the tooth should be moistened with saliva. The tooth becomes dryer after applying the rubber dam, so color matching should be made before using it.

Distance of the Operator From the Tooth, Position of the Patient, and Timing

Shade matching is best done at 61 cm (2 feet) to 183 cm (6 feet) from the oral cavity. The patient should be positioned in the dental chair, so the operator's eyes are level with the patient's teeth. The operator should stand immediately before the patient, focusing light on the teeth. The dentist should undertake shade selection and matching, preferably in the morning, when eye fatigue is at its lowest.

Squint Test for Restricting Light

The traditional approach and color measurement tools are the two sorts of shade-selecting methods. By limiting the amount of light entering the eye, the squint test allows for shade selection. It is done by drawing the eyelids closer together and inspecting the shade guide and the natural tooth. Compared to the tooth color, the color that fades from view first is the least noticeable one.

Visual shade guides

The traditional method of shade selection uses visual shade guidelines, the most well-known and convenient process of selecting tooth shades. They are inexpensive and widely accessible, and they expertly match the color of the dentition with a standardized reference shade guide dental. Vita classical (Bad Säckingen, Germany: VITA Zahnfabrik H. Rauter GmbH & Co.), Vita Toothguide 3D-Master shade guide (Bad Säckingen, Germany: VITA Zahnfabrik H. Rauter GmbH & Co.), and Chromascop shade guide are now available (Buffalo, NY: Ivoclar Vivadent Inc.) The shade tab method of selecting tooth color depends entirely on human eye observation.

Vita Classical Shade Guide

Sixteen tabs are organized into four groups based on hue, with each group correlating to chroma. Because the Vita shade guide has some restrictions, the Vita 3D-Master shade guide is the most often used shade tab among the commercially available shade tabs. It gives more significant and consistent color differences.

Vita Toothguide 3D-Master

It has 26 tabs divided into five groups based on the lightness of the color. The numbers in front of the letters (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) reflect the group number and lightness level; a lower number suggests a higher lightness. The numbers (1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 3) below the group number denote the level of the chroma; more significant numbers indicate chromatic tabs. Three bleaching colors (0M1, 0M2, and 0M3) represent increased lightness, three chroma levels, and a center hue. The main difference between the Vita classical and Vita 3D-Master shade guides is that the Vita classical shade guide is based on color hue, whereas the Vita 3D-Master characterizes color value. The Vita 3D-Master shade guide is considered superior to the Vita traditional shade guide. It has an improved brightness spectrum and more chromatic tabs. The hue latitude is broadened in comparison to the reddish spectra. Furthermore, the shade tabs are distributed equally, and group segmentation is improved.

Sequence for shade matching while using the Vita Classic shade guide

Step 1: Hue Selection.

The operator should choose the color that is closest to the natural tooth. For hue selection, use the area of the teeth with the highest chroma.

Step 2: Chroma Selection.

After selecting Hue, for example, B, Chroma is chosen from gradations within the B tabs - B1, B2, B3, and B4. Several parallels should be drawn.

Retinal tiredness should be avoided. Rest your eyes in between comparisons (look at grey walls).

Step 3: Value Selection

It is advisable to use a second, value-oriented shade guide.

Shade guide by value: B1, A1, A2, B2, D2, C1, C2, D4, A3, D3, B3, A3.5, B4, C3, A4, C4, The final value is determined by employing a second shade guide with samples arranged light shade tabs first and dark shade tabs last.

The value is best estimated by standing slightly away from the chair and squinting while viewing the guide and teeth to be matched. Squinting decreases the amount of light reaching the retina.

The dentist should first focus on whether the two disappear, the tooth or the shade tab. The value of the one that fades first is the lowest.

Therefore stimulation of the cones is lessened while rods become sensitive to the increasingly achromatic circumstances.

Step 4: Final Check/Revisions

Following value selection, the hue and chroma tabs may not coincide with the shade tab picked for value. If the value of the shade tab is lower than the value of the original teeth, choose a new shade tab with a greater significance because extrinsic staining will increase the opacity of the restoration. If the value of the shade tab is higher than the value of the natural teeth, choose a new shade tab with a lower value or bridge the gap using intrinsic or extrinsic staining.

Disadvantages of Shade guides

The following are the drawbacks of shade guides:

  • The colors in shade guides fluctuate depending on the manufacturer.
  • The porcelain used for restoration may differ from that used in a handbook.
  • Guides cannot direct the manufacturing of porcelain restorations.
  • A guide's hues must be rationally arranged and encompass the volume of color space seen in natural dentition.
  • A standard shade tab is constructed of synthetic resin and has a thicker profile than a crown.
  • A shade guide tab reflects and transmits light, giving the appearance of translucency and liveliness.

On the other hand, light is reflected and less likely to be transmitted by a restoration, making it appear dense and opaque.

Color Measuring Instrument

Color-measuring devices have three components: a detector, a signal conditioner, and software that turns the signal into data that can be used in the dental laboratory or operatory. Colorimeters, spectrophotometers, digital cameras, and hybrid devices are examples of color-measuring instruments.

  • Colorimeter

A colorimeter measures color as perceived by the human eye (hue, chroma, and value). It can only measure shade by taking tristimulus measurements under set lighting and observer circumstances. The primary optical elements are the light source, integrating sphere, and detector (three or four filters).

  • Spectrophotometer

Surface colors are often analyzed with spectrophotometers. They assess the quantity of spectral reflection emitted by the body. It's a photometer that can determine intensity based on color or wavelength. A light source, monochromator, and detector are optical elements. Light sources are generally diffracted. Several wavelengths are sent via the entrance slit and onto the test sample.

To precisely measure color, a spectrophotometer is recommended. The sensor transforms light intensity at a specific wavelength into an electrical signal, which is subsequently amplified and presented on a screen or plotted on a chart. The sample preferentially absorbs different wavelengths of light. Before striking the detector, the light then passes through a second slit, known as the exit slit.

A colorimeter measures the total amount of light absorbed. At the same time, a spectrophotometer measures the amount of light absorbed at different wavelengths. Colorimeters, in brief, measure the total quantity of light absorbed, whereas spectrophotometers measure the amount of light absorbed by a specific wavelength. Spectrophotometers are long-lasting and accurate.

  • Digital Cameras

The most basic type of electronic shade-matching gadget is a digital camera. Unlike film cameras, this technology captures images using charge-coupled devices (CCDs), which are made up of thousands or millions of minute light-sensitive elements known as photosites.

It produces a detailed and exact image of the tooth surface and can also be used for color mapping. A flashcard stores all memories and allows for voice input to be recorded and delivered directly to the lab without using a computer. The data can be downloaded into a computer for simple shade and translucency mapping.

  • Hybrid Devices

SpectroShade combines digital images with spectrophotometric studies. It employs the ClearMatch software system (Hood River, OR: Smart Technology) and is a hardware-independent product designed for all Windows-based personal computers and nearly any digital camera.

Limitations of Digital Shade Guide

The following are some of the drawbacks of digital shade guides:

  • The phenomena of edge loss have an impact on color-measuring accuracy.
  • Fine mapping is inadequate for all systems.
  • The placement of the probe or mouthpiece is significant for measuring repeatability.
  • No digital shade guide is advanced enough to function in a formulation mode.
  • For this strategy to be successful, the laboratory must have up-to-date systems.
  • This method necessitates a relatively costly setup.


The perfect shade is the foundation of outstanding aesthetics. It is difficult to determine and closely reproduce the appearance and structure of teeth. To provide a patient with an attractive restoration, the dentist must thoroughly understand color science and color perception.

Matching the perfect tint satisfies the dentist and the patient and offers the patient a beautiful appearance. Both traditional and digital shade systems should be used during the shade selection procedure to obtain good aesthetics.

To learn more about shade selection in. clinical dentistry with our online video lecture series "Fundamentals of Shade Selection"

Click Here to Know More