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How Whitening Works

Course Number: 657

Factors Influencing the Appearance of Teeth

The basic understanding of tooth color is important to many aspects of restorative dentistry, including the preparation of crowns and veneers. Tooth color and appearance are affected by factors both in and on the teeth.

Because teeth are translucent, color is observed from both on and within the teeth. This can be seen clearly in the close-up image below (Figure 3).

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Figure 3.

Image Source: Dr. Gerald Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD

The diagrams below (Figure 4) show how tooth appearance is affected by light reflecting from the tooth surface stain and from areas inside of the translucent tooth.

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Figure 4.

Teeth can be considered to have a natural color – which is derived from structural and compositional factors – as well as an acquired color, which is derived from a combination of natural color supplemented by the deposition on and incorporation into enamel of colored materials (stains) acquired throughout their life span.