By John McCormack.
In the early 1980’s I bought my first proper computer, this was an Apple 2E. One
of the tasks I set myself was to draw some accurate images of teeth. This was
difficult using a mouse ( I think the early mice were not actually very precise
and worked with steel wheels) and I was not aware of any drawing tablets, and I
don’t think the Wacom tablet had come onto the market.
I eventually bought a Robocom controller, this was a bit like a joystick, and
their CAD software, which was used mainly by architects and designers. This made
good drawings on the screen, but hard copy was only at a good standard using a
pen plotter. I wrote this system up in 1984 and 1985.
It was not readily transferrable to any other computer unless it had the Robocom
software, and was certainly not a universal system, and it rather died a death.
Also it was a single line drawing system which meant that the drawing was fine
at the scale it was drawn at, but larger and smaller scale drawings still had
that same thickness line.
A few years later, I saw fonts being constructed at an Apple meeting in the USA
using a software package called Fontographer. This enabled True Type fonts to be
drawn. This was a two line drawing system which made complete scaling of the
drawing possible. In brief this means that each object drawn - for instance the
letter ‘O’ had an outside complete curve circle drawn clockwise and an inside
curve circle drawn anti clockwise. Each was drawn in a thin single pixel line
using Bezier curve graphics and the interspace between the lines was
automatically filled in. This means that scaling up and down was then absolutely
accurate, and beautifully curved images, both on screen and printed on laser or
dot matrix could result. This depends largely on the printer DPI of course.
Eventually I made eight font faces all in this system and registered a website
called Dentagraphics to supply these free to anyone who was interested. These
comprised images of all 32 whole teeth, crowns, roots , endodontically treated
teeth, orthodontic brackets, and an assortment of other images (implants and
attachments etc.) These can be loaded as a font into any PC or Apple computer
and provide a basic dental drawing system, using the fontface as the basic image
– much like other picture vector fontfaces such as ‘Wingdings’. They can be
rotated and scaled to math any situation.
These days with many dentists having Photoshop in their computer it is of course
possible to build up a range of teeth appropriately to represent a mouth perhaps
in one ‘layer’ and then to draw in freehand using for instance the ‘paint’ tool,
various overlays to represent differences in other layers, maybe in alternative
Individual drawings for case presentation or reports can then easily be
1 Computerised Dental Graphics BDJ Vol 156 No 11 pp412-414 June 9th 1984
2 The use of microcomputers in mouth charting and case presentation Quintessence
3 Iconographic Dental Typography BDJ Vol 170 No 11 pp417-420 June 8th 1991