shade selection anterior tooth

Who is using their VITA classic shade guide to colour match their composite restorations? Or finds that the shade guide that came with their brand of composite really doesn’t help?

Due to the polychromatic nature of teeth, reproducing the characteristics of an aesthetic and natural looking tooth is not always a simple task. Particularly for an anterior restoration, the simple selection of a letter, A, B, C or number 1, 2, 3 will often times not give us a very predictable outcome.

Whilst the VITA shade guides can be useful to point us in the right direction of shade they are made to be used with ceramics and not composite resins. So the A3 Vita is going to be different to your composite brands A3. Similarly the shade guides that are included in most composite kits are not made of the actual resin material. Therefore the true shade, translucency, or opacity of the composite resin cannot really be reproduced with stock shade guides

A useful tool we can use to help demystify our composite drawer is to create our own customised shade guide.

A custom shade guide is created using the composite system currently used in your clinic. It can be created for each individual shade or even in a layered approach for commonly used dentine/enamel combinations or characterisations. This also allows us control over the material thickness so we can assess how light passes through the material.

These can be made free hand, however for more predictable material thickness and convenience there are some simple kits that you can get to make it a quick and easy task. Typically a kit will have a mould to fill with your composite, with tools to assist in layering, as well as tabs and holders to keep your samples together.

Several composite brands such as GC and Estelite include these customised shade tab kits with their products so check the box on your next order or ask your rep. There are also other kits that you can buy online such as the My Shade Guide Kits from Style Italiano. With a bit of browsing online I also found this idea of a DIY kit using plastic cutlery as handles and PVS impressions of VITA shade tabs as moulds….

Gopikrishna, Velayutham. (2013). Sturdevant’s Art and Science of Operative Dentistry – South Asian Edition.

So give it a try and create your own custom recipe for success and less shade matching stress!

David is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW, Australia. Read more at

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