How to Get the Right Shade for Dental Restorations

October 26, 2022

Dentist office
Dylan Schubert | Blog Author at Pro-Craft

Written by:
Dylan Schubert

Influences on Dental Shade Matches

Accurate shade matching is an important step in the process of developing prosthetic tooth-colored restorations. Several factors play a critical role in ensuring the best dental shade match is achieved. One of the greatest influences on dental shade matches will be the environment.


\When it comes to dental shade matching, the most significant environmental challenge dental practitioners will come across is lighting. The pull-down dental operatory light used at the dental chair is not the optimal lighting for dental shade matching. PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory recommends these pull-down lights be set aside, and instead use the overhead lights in the operatory room.

For overhead lights it’s advantageous to use full-spectrum, color correcting light bulbs. Color correcting light bulbs have a color rendering index of 90 or above. The colors seen under these bulbs are comparable to the natural light seen under direct sunlight at noon during a cloudless day.

If color correcting lights are not possible, another solution would be to take the patient outdoors. Conducting the dental shade matching process outdoors provides dental practitioners a better opportunity to replicate the tooth’s natural shade.

Tip: Find an outdoor area that is shaded and free from direct sunlight.

Color of Operatory Room & Accessories

Another environmental factor that has an influence on dental shade matching is the operatory room’s wall color. Paint should have neutral tones, such as a neutral gray. It’s best to avoid vibrant, bright, or dark colors.

In addition, accessories such as the patient’s bib, also need to be neutral. Vibrant, bright, or dark colors can reflect onto the tooth surface and lead to an inaccurate dental shade match.

Top 3 Dental Shade Matching Challenges & Solutions

The top three common challenges of dental shade matching include poor lighting, poor photography, and the improper choice of restoration materials.

Challenge #1 Lighting

Lighting is one of the most common, but significant, challenges of dental shade matching.

Solution: Color corrected light bulbs, neutral shades of paint in the operatory room and accessories help ensure a more accurate dental shade match.

Challenge #2 Photography

There are multiple approaches to dental photography, but some of the common mistakes we see are distance, timing, camera and patient positioning, and flash marks. To ensure the best outcomes, we’ve included our top dental photography solutions below.

  • Distance Solutions:
    • Be close enough to the patient’s teeth so that only the teeth and surrounding tissue can be seen.
    • If any part of the face, a mustache or beard, are visible, get closer.
      Ensure the photos are in focus and zoomed in.
  • Timing Solutions:
    • Take photos at the beginning of the patient’s appointment when the patient’s teeth are hydrated and fresh. When teeth dry out, the shade of the teeth change.
    • Be conscious of the processing time. Once procedures begin and the patient’s mouth sits open for prolonged periods, the teeth will begin to dry out.
  • Positioning Solutions:
    • Position the camera perpendicular to the teeth and have the patient sit straight up or stand so they are eye to eye with the dentist.
    • Photographs need to be taken from three different angles:
      • Straight on
      • A little to the right
      • A little to the left
  • Flash Solutions:
    • When using the flash function, be careful not to leave a flash mark on the teeth or the dental shade guide.
      • The teeth, the shade guide, and the numbers on the shade guide need to be visible with no flash marks for the dental laboratory to accurately evaluate.
      • Position the shade tab or dental shade guide so the incisal edge of the guide lines up with the incisal edge of the teeth.
    • Consider the following suggestions for minimizing flash marks.
      • Use a ring flash or dual point flash with a diffuser.
      • Use a diffuser or diffusing shield over the flash.
      • Use a polarizing filter.

Challenge #3 Improper Choice of Materials

The final challenge to shade matching is making an improper choice of material for the dental restoration. The material of choice impacts the shade match and the overall aesthetic of the patient’s smile. This is even more critical when restoring anterior teeth.

PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory does not recommend All Z as restoration material for anterior teeth. All Z is too opaque and not transparent enough for anterior teeth. All Z for anterior teeth can negatively impact the patient’s overall esthetic and satisfaction.

Solution: Instead, we recommend All Z Plus, PRO Z Full Layered Zirconia or IPS E.max. These materials provide the ideal strength and beautiful esthetics you are looking to get for anterior restorations.


In addition to color corrected lighting, accurate photography and the proper choice of materials, dental labs appreciate the inclusion of a shade map in a patient’s case file. Shade maps are hand drawn pictures of a patients' teeth. They include descriptions, characteristics, and other preferences the dentist or patient have for each restoration and dental shade match. A shade map can provide the dental lab with a better understanding of what is expected and results in higher quality and accurate dental restorations.

At PRO-Craft Dental Laboratory the key to our success is your success. If you are looking for additional assistance in shade matching or case planning, we’re here to help. We have a dedicated team ready to guide you to the right solutions to your challenges so you can create beautiful and precise fitting dental restorations for your patients. You can contact us at 877-484-3522 or email

Dental Restorations, How To

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