Effective Shade Taking

Good shade taking technique
Good shade taking technique

Two of the most difficult aspects to master in the dental industry are shade matching and communicating what you see. They are difficult because of the limitations of the human eye to perceive color in a clear, concise, and consistent manner; color perception varies from person to person. Some of the limitations to seeing color include:

  • Retinal fatigue
  • Background effects
  • Poor color memory
  • Lighting conditions
  • Age
  • Color blindness
  • Medication
Poor shade taking technique.
Poor shade taking technique.

Because of these limitations, we have compiled best practices for taking shades and communicating shade with the dental lab.

  1. Take the shade at the beginning of the appointment, before prepping the teeth. For the best match, make sure both the teeth and the shade guide are hydrated.
  2. Avoid color distractions. Remove lipstick, use clear cheek retractors, light gray or blue bibs, and neutral colored gloves.
  3. Sit the patient upright and use ambient light. The ideal lighting should be between 5000° and 6000° Kelvin, with a CRI greater than 90.
  4. If the patient is bleaching, wait 2 weeks for the shade to stabilize prior to taking a shade.
  5. Spend no more than 5-7 seconds comparing shade tabs to natural dentition. The eyes start to tire after 5-7 seconds, making it difficult to see differences.
  6. Rest your eyes between shade tabs. Looking at neutral gray card will help “reset” your eyes and help you avoid retinal fatigue.
  7. When choosing between two tabs bring another person into the operatory and ask him or her to quickly note which tab stands out.  The correct shade is the tab they do not choose. Our eyes are better at seeing differences than seeing similarities.
  8. Use the shade guide your dental lab uses. By using the same guide you can avoid translation errors between different guides. DPS uses Vita Classic and Vita 3D shade guides.
  9. Make sure your shade guide is up-to-date. Shade tabs can degrade and darken over the years due to sterilization and exposure to bright light.  Ask your account manager to do a shade guide check.
  10. Use photographs and the prescription to communicate shade to the lab. The more information you are able to give your ceramist, the better the result.  For more information on photography, visit our Photography blog post.

Send us case photos at: shades@dpsdental.com (Please include doctor name, patient last name, and doctor contact information.)


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