The Importance of Shade Matching in Dental Lab Work

shade matching tipsKingsport, TN

Dentists sell smiles, and smiles are important. They’re usually the first thing someone notices when meeting another person. They exude happiness and friendliness. They can make or break someone’s self-confidence, which can affect both personal and professional lives.

There’s quite a bit of pressure in restoring a smile with implants, veneers, crowns and bridges. The end result is that any prosthetic appears as natural as possible to appease the dentist and, above all, the patient.

One of the most important elements in a successful tooth restoration is shade and color. Failure to match a prosthetic to a patient’s other teeth will result in a dissatisfied patient and most likely a negative review of the dental practice.

Why is shade matching difficult?

Cosmetic and restorative practices require a dentist to be both a scientist and an artist. Restorations need to be functional and beautiful.

While tools for determining shade have come a long way, it’s still a challenge to perfectly match color and shade.

So many factors can throw a matching off, including:

  • The prosthetic is created in a lab far away from the patient, so the onus falls on the dentist to match the color and shade with existing teeth and then successfully communicate that to the lab.
  • The patient’s age, skin and lip tone.
  • State of any disease
  • Dentin color
  • Side effects of medication
  • Colors of a room
  • Room lighting

So what gives?

Tabbed shade guides are the most common and still the most cost-effective and reliable way to select a shade. They help a dentist determine hue, value and chroma. Tabbed shade guides, however, do not take into account environmental factors such as room lighting, and sometimes they can deteriorate due to frequent contact with chemical cleaners.

Technology is and will continue advancing. The introduction of digital cameras, for instance, helps the dentist communicate color and shade to the lab.


The most important tool in shade matching is accurate, detailed communication between the dentist and the lab. Include digital photos with shade mapping when possible. Pro tip: For the photo, hold the shade tab next to the tooth to be matched, making sure the tape number is clearly visible in the photo.

Shade matching for cosmetic dental practices throughout the Southeast United States

Our dental lab professionals at Premier Dental Arts can work closely with you for precise shade matching, and we will always thoroughly communicate with prescribing dentists to ensure we return to you a prosthetic that gives everyone a reason to smile. Give our dental lab professionals a call at (888) 732-5221, or contact us online today.