Colour and Translucency: The Key to Natural-Looking Dental Appliances

Dental RestorationsOne of the challenges of a practising dentist is accurately matching dental restorations to the existing teeth to make them look natural. To obtain that ideal result, they often follow sound principles and methodology during each phase of treatment.

But to best mimic the natural tooth structure, dentists must pay attention to two things when choosing a dental restoration material: colour and translucency.


The colours we see are reflected or transmitted wavelengths. They form when things absorb certain parts of the rainbow spectrum; for instance, a green leaf is green because it absorbs the red and blue portions of the light spectrum. Or something red looks red because its molecules absorb the wavelengths from the violet and blue end of the spectrum.

In dentistry, particularly in restorative dentistry, some restorations use traces of ions to change the material’s light spectrum absorption properties. Restorations made from zirconia, such as a zirconia bridge, particularly have these ions, which makes the material look more natural. In fact, zirconia colour can be made specific by customising the shading liquid.


Translucency refers to the degree to which a material allows light to pass through, and in the dental context, it is the gradient between transparent and opaque.

When a dental restoration is translucent, it looks natural. Take a zirconia dental bridge, for instance. Unlike porcelain material, zirconia is not too opaque. It is translucent, which allows dentists to achieve the ideal anatomic composition of the incisal edge halo, translucent zone and wash, interproximal and cervical neck hues, basic shade high-value area and mamelons.

Moreover, the presence of impurities and structural defects in zirconia contribute to the au naturel effect of the dental restoration.

Perfectly matching a dental restoration to the existing tooth structure is not an accident. It requires following sound principles methodology and requires time and effort – and it requires at least some basic knowledge in colour and translucency.