Contrast and its Impact on Shade

Contrast and its Impact on Shade

There are many factors that influence the perception of shade. One of the more interesting natural phenomena impacting shade selection is the “contrast effect” – the effect of one color on the perception of another color.  A recent example of this phenomenon went viral during the white/gold, black/blue dress debate.

Examine the image to the left.  Do the two smaller gray rectangles appear to have the same shade?  Surprisingly, the inner gray rectangles are identical colors and sizes. However, when viewed against the darker background the inner rectangle looks lighter, and viewed on the lighter background, it looks darker. In addition, they appear to be different sizes.

Contrast effect can significantly affect tooth shade selection. For example, a tooth viewed against a dark gingiva will appear lighter than the same tooth viewed against a lighter gingiva.

Helpful ways to deal with contrast effects:

  • When in doubt, choose a lighter shade. The lab can always stain darker, but going lighter means stripping the porcelain or redoing the crown for Emax or All Zirconia.
  • Send photos with the shade tabs as reference. Include the shade to be matched, a shade lighter, and a shade darker in the photo to offset the contrast effect.  This will allow the technician to get a concrete sense of the shade and value variation.  Photos of the patient’s face and full smile can also be included to show how the new crown will fit into the patient’s appearance.
  • Use a Vita Easyshade to help set a reference point for the shade.

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