Has your dentist told you that you need a sinus lift? If so, you’re not alone: one in five people will need a sinus lift before their dental implants can be inserted. A key to implant success is the quantity and quality of the bone where the implant is to be placed. The upper back jaw has traditionally been one of the most difficult areas to successfully place dental implants due to insufficient bone quantity and quality and the close proximity to the sinus. If you’ve lost bone in that area due to reasons such as periodontal disease or tooth loss, you may be left without enough bone to place implants. Sinus lift surgery can help correct this problem by raising the sinus floor and developing bone for the placement of dental implants. In this post, we’ll explore what this procedure entails and when it is necessary.

What is a sinus lift?
A sinus lift, also called a sinus augmentation, is surgery that adds bone to your upper jaw in the area of your molars and premolars. During the procedure, bone is added between your jaw and the maxillary sinuses, which are on either side of your nose. To make room for the bone, the sinus membrane has to be moved upward, or “lifted.” A sinus lift usually is done by a specialist, who could be either an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a periodontist.

When is a sinus lift necessary?
A sinus lift is necessary when there is not enough bone height in the upper jaw or when the sinuses are too close to the jaw for a dental implant. There are several reasons for this:

  • Many people who have lost teeth from their upper jaw — particularly the back teeth, or molars — do not have enough bone for implants to be placed. Because of the anatomy of the skull, the back of the upper jaw has less bone than the lower jaw.
  • Bone may have been lost because of periodontal disease.
  • Tooth loss can also contribute to bone loss. Once teeth are gone, the body begins to reabsorb bone from the jaw. If teeth have been missing for a long time, there often is not enough bone left to place implants.
  • The maxillary sinus may be too close to the upper jaw for implants to be placed. The shape and the size of this sinus varies from person to person and can get larger as you age.

Sinus lifts have become common during the last 15 years as more people get dental implants to replace missing teeth.

What steps are required to prepare for a sinus lift?
The bone used in a sinus lift may come from your own body (autogenous bone), from a cadaver (allogeneic bone), or from cow bone (xenograft). If your own bone will be used in the sinus lift, it will be taken from other areas of your mouth or body. In some cases, the surgeon removes bone from your hip or tibia (the bone beneath the knee). Either way, you will need X-rays taken before your sinus lift, so the dentist can study the anatomy of your jaw and sinus. You also may need a special type of CT scan. This scan will allow the dentist to accurately measure the height and width of your existing bone and to evaluate the health of your sinus. If you have seasonal allergies, you should schedule the procedure when they are not active.

How is the procedure done?
To begin the procedure, your surgeon will cut the gum tissue where your back teeth used to be. The tissue is raised so that the bone is exposed. Then, the surgeon will open a small oval window in your bone. The membrane that separates your sinuses from your jaw will be gently pushed up and away from your jaw to provide better access. Granules of bone-graft material are then packed into the space where the sinus was. The amount of bone used will vary, but usually several millimeters of bone is added above the jaw. Once the bone is in place, the tissue is closed with stitches. After this procedure is complete, it will take four to ten months for the grafted material to mesh with your bone before the dental implants can be put in place. The amount of time depends between procedures ultimately depends on the amount of bone necessary.

What do I need to do after a sinus lift?
After the procedure, you may have some swelling of the area and you may experience bleeding from your mouth or nose. Do not blow your nose or sneeze forcefully. Either one could cause the bone-graft material to move and loosen the stitches. Your dentist may give you saline sprays to keep the inner lining of your nose wet and prescribe medicine to prevent congestion and inflammation. You also will be given pain medicine, an antibiotic, and an antimicrobial mouthwash to help prevent infection. Most patients only experience a little discomfort during this recovery.

A week to ten days after the sinus lift, you will see the specialist who will evaluate the surgical site and remove stitches if they have not dissolved on their own. You might be asked to return a few more times to make sure the area is healing properly, as it will take several months for the bony material to harden and integrate with your jaw. Depending on the grafting material used, dental implants may be placed in four to nine months.

Do you have any questions about sinus lifts? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.