An illustration of periodontitis for an assignment in Biomedical Communications. The piece details progressive changes in dental biofilm and gross morphology as the pathology advances.

Date: November 2017


Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop


Audience: General

Supervisor: Dr. Shelley Wall | Biomedical Communications
Dr. John Wong | Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Award of Merit

Association of Medical Illustrators 2017

Development Process

Surveying the Sources

I consulted a variety of dental textbooks and online resources to better understand the pathogenesis of periodontitis. I came to understand that most of the pathology is driven by changes in the bacterial culture forming around the teeth, and my focus changed to investigating the progression of microbial biofilms in the mouth.

This informed the narrative for this piece.

Planning the Layout

Designing the layout for this project was the most difficult and frustrating part of the creative process. Initially my focus was too broad; I had created drafts that were focused on macro changes to the dental anatomy and not enough information explaining the pathogenesis of periodontitis at a microbiological level. As a result, I struggled with coming up with enough information to display in a two page spread. Fed up with the frustration, I started over and hit the books again to better understand the nature of the pathology. I realized that the microbial communities of the mouth were key players in the narrative, and my focus began to change. I came up with several more drafts that entertained laying the composition horizontally and vertically. Ultimately, I settled for a horizontal layout since I needed to demonstrate that plaque buildup increased deeper into the tooth. This informed the horizontal representation of the tooth.

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Drawing, Design, and Dentistry

Creating the image of the tooth required looking up a variety of visual references. I was never happy with what I found, so I downloaded free 3D models of dental anatomy and positioned them to my fancy. To better understand colours and the oral environment, I took photos of my own mouth as reference. I spent an entire weekend rendering the tooth in Adobe Photoshop. Additional visual elements, like the bacteria and tooth icons, were done in Adobe Illustrator.

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Polishing Up

Text and additional graphical elements (such as banners and leader lines) were made in the final steps of the creative process. Small layout changes were made to better fit text and ensure the legibility of the piece.

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The greatest challenge with this piece was to find a layout that would convey the pathogenesis of periodontitis while adhering to the specifications of a two-page editorial spread. Working around that middle gutter was the reason this piece went through so many iterations, but in the end I think the hard work made for a well-designed piece. Don't forget to brush and floss!

© 2018 by Mark Belan.