(480) 899-52402470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

Daniel G. Kline DDS - Chandler Dentist

(480) 899-5240

2470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

Menu share

Shade Design

The art of choosing your tooth color

Esthetic Dentistry uses two top-of-the-line tools to help select the closest shade for your tooth. Learn more about ClearMatch® and Easy Shade.

shade-design-1Shade design is one of the most fascinating and frustrating areas of cosmetic dentistry for me.  The dimensions of color are challenging to actually see and understand let alone communicate.  Most of us are not well trained in the language of color. Expressing the qualities of hue (actual color), chroma (saturation or intensity of color), value (amount of light and dark), translucency/opacity (degree of clarity) and maverick characterizations (distinctive, unique properties) are just not part of our normal vocabulary.  Shapes can be pretty well defined, but color is illusive.

We use color tabs (shade guides) that are held next to the tooth to be matched or under the lip if an entirely new shade is being chosen.  The original Vita Classic guide has 16 shades to choose from.  The Chromascope guide by Ivoclar offers 20 tabs to select among.  A newer “3D” arrangement by Vita presents 36 tabs to match. Additionally, we also have guides to compare with bleached teeth. As you can probably guess, not all teeth match perfectly with our standard choices.

Besides using our eyes to match a shade tab we have technology to assist us. Probably the most useful and simple aid is a digital camera with a close up lens.  We take a picture with our best shade choice and send it to the dental lab with a description of how it varies from the tab.

shade-design-2The Easy Shade electronic shade selection device is valuable as well.  It works like a color matching machine at the paint store.  If you’ve used these before then you know that they are good, but usually not quite exact.  Due to the complexities of tooth color, this machine falls short of being “the answer”, but I use it frequently.  It has a built in miniature computer that analyses in some unique ways.

The ClearMatch® system is clever also.  We take a digital photo with three known shades in the image and interactively give the computer information about the photo we took.  It then processes and “maps” the shade variations within the tooth that are displayed similar to a paint by number book. This can be printed out and sent to the laboratory. It is a valuable tool that we use everyday.

shade-design-3A system called The Shade Ladder has considerable potential to describe the subtleties of translucency, hypocalcifications and brown discolorations, crack lines and surface anatomy that can make a crown great and we certainly appreciate its usefulness.

If we have so many methods for determining and communicating shade it may be apparent that this is an area for potential problems. Layers of communication compound all this. The patient can have trouble expressing shade preferences to the doctor.  The doctor can have issues with accurately accessing the different aspects of shade, with or without patient input.  Even if the doctor perceives shade well and describes it in abundant detail, the dental technician who fabricates the restoration may have limitations in interpreting the doctor’s prescription as intended.

Furthermore, there are several manufacturers of dental porcelain just as there are house paints.  In the same way that the color of Navajo White in Dunn Edwards paint does not quite match perfectly with the same shade in Glidden, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams or Ralph Lauren, conversion tables for porcelain shades among various makers are less than ideal.  This can cause disappointments.

Additionally, if the prescription to the lab specifies “moderate incisal translucency” the resulting product may depend on how many translucent incisal shades the particular porcelain maker provided in his kit, not to mention how the individual technician interprets how thickly to apply the moderate translucency. So there are lots of challenges here.


Fortunately, if we are doing several teeth simultaneously, the result is usually a uniform shade among all of the restorations (veneers or crowns) because they are done at the same time using the same porcelain manufacturer (and the same batch) and the same technician with his unique technique.  If there has been good communication on the key elements of shade selection then the harmony is pleasing and everybody is happy.

It is my experience that some labs generally produce a “whiter”, brighter product and that others are inclined to make things look more “natural”. There is no right or wrong here, but it is important to know what the patient wants and which of a multitude of laboratories is most likely to deliver the wished for result.

As you may gather, I have been seriously pursuing a predictable way to obtain ideal shades.  I know that I understand quite a lot and I believe that our patients benefit from my quest.  I hope that if we assist with your shading needs that our communication, training, experience and technology will combine for near perfect results.

ClearMatch® Dental Shade Matching

ClearMatch® uses a proven and patented method of color analysis to accurately measure shade and value information. By using standards when acquiring images, ClearMatch® software ‘normalizes’ images prior to performing the desired analysis. ’Normalizing’ means adjusting hues to compensate for any color imbalances that occurred when the image was taken. The ClearMatch® system helps us make beautiful, accurate restorations.

VITA Easyshade Dental Shade Matching

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.33.47 PMThe VITA Easyshade® is capable of instantly measuring a broad range of 45 shades, including 3 bleached, 26 Vitapan® 3D-Master and 16 VITA® Classical Shades.

From a basic partial denture to the most demanding lifelike central, initial shade match is always the key.

Now, with the VITA Easyshade, you can easily verify a precise, objective shade match, leaving you more time to focus on the important piece in your artistry characterization, layering and all the subtle nuances you know so well. Eliminate the basics that can sometimes lead to remakes.