What is a sinus lift?
The maxillary sinuses are behind your cheeks and on top of the upper teeth. These sinuses are empty, air-filled spaces. Some of the roots of the natural upper teeth extend up into the maxillary sinuses. When these upper teeth are removed, there is often just a thin wall of bone separating the maxillary sinus and the mouth. Because dental implants need bone to to be held in place, when the sinus wall is very thin, it is impossible to place dental implants here.
The key to a successful and long-lasting dental implant is the quality and quantity of jaw bone to which the implant will be attached. If bone loss has occurred due to injury or periodontal disease, a sinus augmentation can raise the sinus floor and allow for the formation of new bone. A sinus lift is one of the most common bone grafting procedures for patients with bone loss in the upper jaw. The procedure seeks to grow bone in the floor of the maxillary sinus above the bony ridge of the gumline that anchors the teeth in the upper jaw. This enables dental implants to be placed and secured in the new bone growth.
Am I a candidate for a sinus lift procedure?
A sinus lift may be necessary for dental implant support if you are missing one or more of the following:
- More than one tooth in the back of the jaw
- A significant amount of bone in the back of the jaw
- One or more teeth due to a birth defect or condition
- Most of the maxillary teeth
How is a sinus lift accomplished?
Most commonly a small incision is made in the premolar or molar region to expose the jaw bone. A small opening is cut into the bone, and the membrane lining the sinus is pushed upward. The underlying space is filled with bone grafting material, either from your own body or from other sources. Synthetic materials that imitate bone are sometimes used. After the bone is implanted, the incision is sutured and the healing process begins. After about four months of healing, the bone becomes part of your jaw, and dental implants can be inserted and stabilized in the newly formed sinus bone.
If enough bone is available between the upper jaw ridge and the bottom of the sinus to sufficiently stabilize the implant, sinus augmentation and implant placement can sometimes be performed as a single procedure. If not enough bone is available, sinus augmentation will have to be performed first, then the graft will have to mature for several months depending upon the type of graft material used. Once the graft has matured, the implant can be placed.
The sinus graft makes it possible for many patients who previously had no other option besides wearing loose dentures to have dental implants.