Global Health Nexus, Winter 2004

The Color Question

What method would you like your dentist to use to select the perfect shade for your veneers? The dentist can either use his or her naked eye to select among conventional shade tabs and hope that the dental technician matches it correctly, or he or she can go high-tech by using computer-integrated technology to digitally analyze and verify the exact shade of surrounding teeth in order to get an exact mapping of the color for duplication.

This is an area in which Dr. Stephen Chu is an expert. A Clinical Assistant Professor of Implant Dentistry and Director of the Advanced Education and International Study Programs in Aesthetic Dentistry at NYU Dentistry, Dr. Chu has written a book called The Fundamentals of Color: Understanding Color Theory, Shade Matching, and Color Communication in Dentistry, to be published in June 2004 by Quintessence Publishing. Two years ago Dr. Chu completed the first clinical trials on patients using a reliable science laboratory instrument, a spectrophotometer, to literally throw light at the tooth in order to create a perfect map of its color. According to Dr. Chu, this new technology saves time and money for both the patient and the dentist since it not only creates a perfect color match, but also is less expensive than custom-coloring a tooth by hand.

There is only one drawback. At $6,000-$10,000 per unit, purchasing a spectrophotometer is currently quite costly. So while Dr. Chu is convinced that the technology is a boon to aesthetic dentists and their patients, he feels that it has to become more affordable in order to be adopted by large numbers of practitioners.

“Once the unit becomes more user-friendly from a cost standpoint, I predict that it will gain wide acceptance,” he says.