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Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin

Taking Tooth Colored Composite Resin Dentistry To The Highest Level Of The Art

By Dr. Newton Fahl, Jr.

This article is endorsed by the
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.


Understanding Color In Restoring Teeth

Understanding color and the components of what make up color is critical to the biomimetic restoration of teeth.

Color is a general term applied to the whole spectrum of which the rainbow is composed. The three primary colors red, blue, and green, of which all the other colors result, together create white light.

Hue describes the distinct characteristic of color that distinguishes red from yellow from blue. These hues are largely dependent on the dominant wavelength of light that is emitted or reflected from an object. Theoretically, all hues can be mixed from three basic hues, known as primaries.

Value is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. It is an important tool for an artist as it defines form and creates spatial illusions. To understand value, think brightness — the brighter a color is, the higher its value.

Chroma is often referred to as “colorfulness.” Chroma is the amount of identifiable hue in a color. A color without hue is achromatic (“a” – without; “chroma” – color) and will appear gray.

Saturation is also known as “intensity.” Saturation describes the strength of a color with respect to the concentration of a certain color pigment, such as “dense red” or “faint red.”

Painting By Colors

Not as easy as painting by numbers, understanding tooth color is complicated for several reasons. Both the enamel and dentin have intrinsic physical and optical properties. Dentin is approximately 20% more opaque than enamel, providing most of a tooth's true color (known as its hue, which falls in the red-yellow spectra). Enamel acts like a fiber optic layer that adjusts the perception of the underlying dentin color. The extent of translucency/opacity of enamel varies based on natural factors such as enamel thickness and age in addition to other applied factors such as tooth bleaching. These variations alter the perception of the underlying dentin color, its chroma (colorfulness) and value (brightness). Highly translucent (see through) enamel allows light to be transmitted through it to reach a deeper, high color dentin. This creates the appearance of an enamel of lower color value (less luminous tone). More opaque or cloudy enamel serves as a barrier that disperses, absorbs, and reflects light so a minimal amount of color is perceived, creating an enamel of higher and brighter color value.

Art — In The Eye Of The Beholder Or The Artist?

Art, in the case of direct composite dentistry for restoring front teeth, is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also the artist. And, strange as it may seem, it's about creating invisible art by recreating teeth that look totally natural, so that no one can tell the difference. It involves a detailed understanding of natural tooth composition and shapes, choosing the right composite system to rebuild and restore lost tooth structure, and an understanding of light and color. Oh, and a dental artist who can put them all together!