Over the past few years, new technology has entered into shade matching, an aspect of the art and science of dentistry that has been inexact to say the least. The communication of shade between the dentist and the CDT at a remote dental laboratory has always been challenging. While the contour, length, and width of an indirect restoration can be easily and accurately expressed through a study model, there had been no similarly direct orientation for shade matching in dentistry. Much of this new shade-matching technology has its origins in such commercial applications as color matching for paint, plastics, and textiles.
Until now, shade matching was subject to the vagaries of a dental practitioner’s perceptions and the limitations of existing techniques that achieved outcomes of often inconsistent and dubious quality. Under these circumstances it is often the case that a doctor will be sure of the shade he or she prescribes for a particular restoration, only to receive back a unit from the laboratory that does not meet with expectations, but that the laboratory is equally certain meets the criteria of the data supplied.
Digital shade matching units standardize the measurements of hue, value, and chroma (the parameters used in the Munsell color system), so that technicians at a remote dental laboratory can apply these readings to existing porcelain formulas and achieve accurate results based on the information supplied. In other words, much of the guesswork inherently involved in shade matching for indirect dental restorations has been eliminated through the controls introduced by these products.
This is a boon both to the dentist, as he or she presents treatment to his or her patients with the added certainty of this new modality, and to the dental technologist, who can now confidently provide superior quality restorations to their doctors without questioning the validity of the shade information received. This is truly a win-win situation for both sides of the dentist/laboratory equation.
We use a hand-held digital shade matching device that contains a color analyzer with its own light source that has accompanying software for the downloading, evaluation, and transmission of the relevant color data recorded. The program’s interpretation of this shade record, when downloaded on the dentist’s computer, can be used in selecting the shade of the provisional restoration fabricated chairside, and then be transmitted via email to the laboratory where the definitive restoration will be made.
Once received by the laboratory, the shade file is processed by reciprocal software on the laboratory end, which defines the specific porcelain blends needed to realize the desired shade in the ultimate restoration. Obviously, those units whose readings relate to the most porcelain systems available on the market will have the highest flexibility in obtaining the best shade match.
Digital photography is used to augment the color matching system for the unique features of surface texture and unusual characterizations found in many cases. The combination of these tools results in a consistency of color that leads to the ultimate goal of patient satisfaction.