Color is experienced through our eyes. An understanding of our physiology is basic to the application of the principles of color science and shade selection in your dental practice. In dental school, you learned how the eye perceives light differently through our cones and rods.

These two parts of the eye act independently from each other - the cones act as color receptors and the rods act as light receptors – and each of these vary in their reactivity over time, which can cause issues in selecting the correct color for your patient. In order to achieve the most successful shade selection, it is helpful to remember that there are variables in color recognition and that there are tools available to increase your efficiency and accuracy.

Light source quality: The color content of the illuminant interacts with the object being perceived. If you use poor lighting, your color correction is going to look less than ideal. Poor lighting, such as (non-color corrected) overheard fluorescent lights, tend to give off a red spectrum and will skew your color choice. What you want to look for are daylight lighting bulbs or a bulb that has a color temperature of approximately 5500K since it will portray the closest to natural sunlight.

Light source quantity: Otherwise known as intensity, this plays a huge role in shade selection especially when there is a lighting extreme working against you. If your dental chair is facing a window or there is little to no natural lighting in your office, try renting a light meter from your local photo shop and assess the lighting. To get as close to natural sunlight in your office, you will want to aim for 150 to 200 foot-candles.

Taking note of these tools and variables in color recognition will aid you in selecting the correct shades for your patient and ensure that they will leave your office with an ideal smile.