Comparison of visual analog shade matching, a digital visual method with a cross-polarized light filter, and a spectrophotometer for dental color matching

Published online: March 20, 2020


Statement of problem

During the selection of tooth color, subjective communication with the laboratory and an incorrect color registration technique can lead to a poor color match of a restoration to adjacent teeth and oral structures.


The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to compare color registration and color matching in a young Chilean population with 3 different methods: visual with a shade guide, digital visual with a cross-polarized filter, and instrumental with a spectrophotometer.

Material and methods

A total of 60 young volunteers were selected for tooth color registration of the maxillary right central incisor by using 3 different methods. Tooth color registration was performed using the CIELab and ΔE coordinate system.


Significant differences were detected between the coordinates recorded by the visual analog method in comparison with the other 2 methods. In contrast, no significant differences were found between the L∗ and b∗ coordinates of the spectrophotometer and the digital visual method with use of a cross-polarization filter. The ΔE obtained between the visual shade and spectrophotometer was 7.35, and the ΔE between the digital visual method with the use of a cross-polarization filter and the spectrophotometer was 6.12.


No statistically significant differences were observed in the digital image with the cross-polarization filter and the spectrophotometer in the L∗ and b∗ coordinate of the CIELab system. In contrast, the visual analog method led to large differences with the other methods under study. The ΔE of the digital visual method with the use of cross-polarization filters and the spectrophotometer was 6.2, considered as an acceptable color mismatch (<ΔE 6.8).
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