Each natural tooth in your mouth consists of a root and a crown. The crown is the part of the tooth that we see above the gum that makes up your smile. The root is below the gum and anchors your tooth into your jawbone. We all know that the crowns of our teeth are for chewing, but the root plays an important role, too. What exactly is the purpose of your dental roots?
You may not think that your teeth or jaw need nourishment but they do. The center of your tooth is actually alive. It is called the pulp and consists of live tissue cells, blood vessels, and nerves, and is what gives your tooth feeling. The pulp chamber is connected to the root canal, and there is a tiny hole in the bottom of your root. When you bite down or chew, the pressure on your root stimulates a flow of nutrients to that area of your jawbone and that tooth. The nutrients enter the tooth through the tiny hole.
Tooth vs. Jawbone
Your tooth can exist without the living pulp. Root canal therapy removes the pulp when it becomes infected and re-enforces your tooth with a putty-like material called gutta percha. This allows your tooth to remain in place and continue to function. This not only allows you to continue to chew properly and smile without embarrassment, but it benefits your jawbone, as well. As long as your root remains in your jawbone, and is stimulated when you chew, the flow of nutrients will continue and your jawbone will remain healthy and strong. However, once the root is removed the stimulation stops and the nutrients cease to flow to that area of your jaw.
How This Affects Implants
For an implant to be successful, your jawbone needs to be dense and strong enough support an implant post. If it is not, you may 1) no longer be a candidate for an implant, or 2) need a bone grafting procedure before becoming a candidate for implant placement.