Dentagraphics fonts and their history

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.

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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 colours.

Individual drawings for case presentation or reports can then easily be produced.

John McCormack


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 International 6/1985
3 Iconographic Dental Typography BDJ Vol 170 No 11 pp417-420 June 8th 1991

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