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In its simplest form, when we talk about shade, we are talking about three primary topics: Hue, Chroma, and Value.
“Hue” is “What color is it?” Meaning, does it look blue, or brown, red or green?
“Chroma” is “How intense is the color?” It is a pale shade of pink, or blood red? Would you call it “baby blue” or Navy blue? Those are levels of intensity of color, from very faint, to fully saturated.
And then “Value”. Value is the relative position along a brightness scale from white, being the Highest Value, to black being the Lowest Value. If a tooth is bright, we would refer to it as having a higher value. If a tooth is darker, we would say it has a lower value. Often value is related to general translucency of a tooth; the more translucent the tooth is, the grayer it will look, or, lower the value.
These things all relate to the shade guide, and help you narrow down which tab is the closest approximation to what you see.
From here we move into secondary descriptions of a tooth, what we would call “Character”.
Character has to do with the many distinguishing factors that separate natural or realistic, from something that looks artificial. What kind of translucency do the teeth exhibit? What are the shade variations internal or external to the tooth? Are there fracture lines, or areas of hypocalcification or staining that individualize the tooth? What is the surface texture, level of shine, or morphology?
Giving this secondary information, in quality photography, written description, and even drawing a map, greatly augments the lab’s ability to produce something that looks the way it should.
So, a quick review…
Hue…what color is it?
Chroma…how intense is the color?
Value…how bright or how dark is the tooth?
And, Character…what natural variations set it apart from a shade tab and make it look like it belongs?
All of these things work together to create a lifelike restoration, that flows and harmonizes with the patient’s natural dentition. Careful and accurate communication of these qualities help ensure a restoration that is both functional and beautiful, and one that promotes and encourages a smiling patient.