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Aesthetic Evaluation Form • Bonding Procedure for All-Porcelain Crowns and Onlays • 
Color metamerism in teeth • Porcelain Veneer Bonding Procedure • Shade-Matching Technology • Should etching be performed as part of a vital bleaching technique? • Treatment Coordinator

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Recent advances in shade-matching technology

Click here to learn about the book Esthetic Color Training in Dentistry.

Many dentists will tell you that they feel that the most difficult esthetic procedure is a single crown on one central incisor. Many will recommend to patients that they crown both centrals in order to get them to match. It's frustrating, because there are many beautiful ceramic materials that can create a wonderfully natural-looking tooth. But they all require shade-matching, and there is where the procedure breaks down.

One effective technique for shade matching is to use photography. Using a high-quality digital camera that captures color-correct images, a shade tab with the shade that is closest to the shade of the tooth is placed next to the tooth in question and is photographed with the tooth. If needed, several photographs can be taken with different shade tabs. The image can then be e-mailed to the lab, where the technician can compare the shade of the tooth, with its characterizations, to the shade of the tab. If needed, the tab in the photograph can be custom stained. The custom tab is then wrapped carefully and sent with the case to the lab. This is a very effective method of pinning down an exact shade match for the crown.

Dr. Edward Walk, AACD accredited cosmetic dentist from Newton, Massachusetts, developed a technique of taking several photographs of the tooth or teeth with a shade guide, each at a different light setting. You can then provide these photographs to the laboratory who can determine the shade match and the translucency by extrapolating from the photos.

There are some new devices, however, that don't require photographs. They either use spectrophotometry or colorimetry to measure the color. Read up on these terms if you wish. There are various reasons proposed for favoring one method over the other. All but one of these systems use a handheld device placed on or just in front of the tooth in question. A shield is used to block out surrounding light and for infection control. Some systems will make a color map of the entire tooth and the screen will display an image of the tooth, similar to what a digital camera does. The other units will analyze a spot or spots on the tooth and then give numeric information that represents specific porcelain shades.

One shade matching system that isn't used chairside and doesn't use a handheld device is Clear Match. Clear Match is nothing more than computer software that interprets standard digital photographs of the teeth. This software will take the photograph and generate a shade that corresponds to a standard shade guide such as Vitapan 3D-Master. It will also generate hue, value, and chroma for each area of the tooth.

The units listed below all consist of handheld devices that read the shades directly from the tooth rather than from a digital photograph. Some may feel that this method is more reliable. They will likewise generate a shade match corresponding to a standard shade guide along with a formula for variations from the standard shade tab.

Once you've taken the shade, you can relay this information to the lab by print-out, disk, or e-mail. If you send an electronic file rather than a shade match print-out, your lab needs to have the appropriate software that will interpret the data. Or, if the lab wanted to be really precise, they would use the same unit as the dentist did and then take an electronic shade of the crown before sending it to the dentist. This is what ShadeVision's manufacturer, X-Rite, calls the "virtual try-in."

Another approach is for the lab to purchase a unit and lend it to a dentist for use in certain critical cases. Once the dentist sees what the unit can do, he or she may want to purchase one of their own. Or the dentist can lend the unit to the lab.



ShadeEye NCC by Shofu

The ShadeEye NCC Dental Chroma Meter generates a complete recipe to match the shade for a porcelain crown. It will accommodate several shade guide systems, including its proprietary Shofu Vintage Halo porcelain system, classic Vita shades, Vitapan 3D-Master, Chromascop, or Biodent. The base unit can generate a printout, or can download it to a personal computer. On the computer you can use the Shade Eye Viewer software to record all the patient's shade information which can then be e-mailed to the laboratory along with digital photographs of the teeth. For more information, call (800) 82-SHOFU or visit


ShadeScan™ by Cynovad

ShadeScan™ measures shades over the entire tooth surface, then analyzes them and generate a shade match report. It likewise can generate a report to be used with any standard shade guide system. ShadeScan™ creates an image of the tooth with a translucency and characterization map, and then will generate a printed report.

Besides using ShadeScan™ for crowns and bridges, the manufacturers suggest using it also for direct restorations and to monitor bleaching treatment. For more information call (866) CYNOVAD or visit


ShadeVision System by X-Rite

The ShadeVision unit uses advanced colorimetry to scientifically determine the hue, value and chroma of the teeth. The ShadeVision unit will capture an image of the tooth and upload it to a personal computer for processing. Shade information can then be sent to the dental laboratory via e-mail, disk, or by printout. If the shade match information is sent by electronic file, the laboratory should have the proper software to interpret the data.

Its manufacturers claim that the ShadeVision system will improve your productivity, reduce chair time and remakes, and improve patient satisfaction. For more information, call (866) 61-SHADE or visit


VITA Easyshade by Vident

The VITA Easyshade unit consists of a handpiece that contains multiple spectrophotometers and can be covered with a transparent infection-control sleeve. The Easyshade probe feeds information to a touch-screen readout which then provides a prescription in both Vitapan 3D-Master and classic VITA shades. It will highlight the closest shade match in both of these shade guides.

For more information, call 800-828-3839 or visit

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