What is a Sinus Lift?
The maxillary sinuses are behind your cheeks and sit atop the roots of the upper molar teeth. These sinuses are empty, air-filled spaces walled by thin bone with a thin inner soft tissue lining, much like an egg that has a shell as well as an inner lining. 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. Dental implants need bone to hold them in place. When the sinus floor above the roots is very thin, it is impossible to place dental implants in this bone.
The key to a successful and long-lasting dental implant is the quality and quantity of jawbone to which the implant will be attached. If bone loss has occurred due to injury or periodontal disease, a bone graft can be performed along the portion of the sinus floor that formerly sat on top of the molar roots to restore the bone that previously existed in this area when teeth were present. While this procedure has been called “sinus lift”, this term is actually a misnomer, as the sinus itself is not lifted at all. This procedure is one of the most common bone grafting procedures for patients with bone loss in the upper jaw. It is performed in the office, and in Doctors Nail and Dombrowski’s hands has a recovery similar to the removal of a tooth. By strengthening and growing bone in this location, dental implants can be placed securely, providing a stable foundation for the replacement of the missing teeth.
Am I a Candidate for a Sinus Lift Procedure?
A sinus lift may be necessary if you:
- are missing more than one tooth in the back of your upper jaw.
- are missing a significant amount of bone in the back of your upper jaw.
- are missing upper molars due to a birth defect or condition.
- are missing most of the maxillary (upper jaw) teeth, but require support for dental implants.
How is this Oral Surgery Accomplished?
In the most common sinus augmentation procedure, a small incision is made on the premolar or molar region to expose the jawbone. A small opening is made in the thin bone, and the membrane lining just inside the floor of the sinus (similar to the lining of the nose) is gently teased upward to its former position. The underlying space is filled with bone grafting material, either from your own body or bone mineral substitute or a mixture of both. Sometimes, synthetic materials that can imitate bone formation are used. After the bone is implanted, the incision is closed and the healing process begins. After 4 months of healing, the bone becomes part of the patient’s jaw and dental implants can be inserted and stabilized in the new bone.
If enough bone between the upper jaw ridge and the bottom of the sinus is available to stabilize the implant well, sinus floor grafts and implant placement can sometimes be performed as a single procedure. If not enough bone is available, the sinus floor graft will be performed first, and the graft will mature for about 4 months. Once the graft has matured, the implants can be placed.
The sinus floor graft makes it possible for many patients to have dental implants who otherwise would not have had any option other than to receive tooth-damaging dental bridges or having to wear removable dentures.
A sinus augmentation is generally performed at our office under intravenous sedation but can also be accomplished under local anesthesia in some instances.