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Evaluating and Establishing Ideal Smile Esthetics : Beauty is More than Skin Deep

Course Number: 649

Tooth Shade

Less than ideal tooth color is the most common complaint amongst individuals unhappy with their smile.7 The Munsell color system is used in dentistry to describe tooth color.8 The system characterizes the hue, value, and chroma to capture the dimensions of tooth color (Figure 3).8 Hue distinguishes between different families of color (i.e., blue versus yellow). Value characterizes the lightness of a color within that particular hue. Chroma describes the degree of color saturation, or brilliance. In dentistry, the hue has been denoted as A through D. While to the untrained eye teeth may all appear to be shades of white, the underlying colors are captured in the description of hues. Shade A describes an underlying reddish brown hue, Shade B is a reddish yellow hue, Shade C is a gray color, and Shade D is a reddish-gray color. Untreated teeth, on average, demonstrate an A3 hue and B1 is considered to be the lightest naturally occurring shade.8 Darker tooth shade is associated with increasing age and male gender.9,10 Most patients judge a lighter tooth shade as more esthetic, but perception of shade may be influenced by skin and lip color, patient age and gender.11,12 It is also well-established that factors that influence light reflection, including material translucency, fluorescence, and opalescence can alter the perception of shade.11,12

Figure 3: A three-dimensional representation of the Munsell color system describing hue, value, and chroma within color families.8, 87