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. Dental implants need bone to hold them in place. When the sinus floor is 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 sinus augmentation can raise the sinus floor and allow for new bone formation. 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 gum line that anchors the teeth in the upper jaw. By strengthening and growing bone in this location, dental implants can be placed and secured in the new bone growth.
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Do I need a Sinus Lift Procedure?
A sinus lift may be necessary if you:
- are missing one or more teeth in the back of your jaw and desire implant replacement.
- are missing a significant amount of bone in the back of your jaw.
- are missing teeth due to a birth defect or condition.
- are missing most of the upper teeth and require support for dental implants.
How is this Oral Surgery Accomplished?
In the most common sinus augmentation procedure, an incision is made on the premolar or molar region to expose the jawbone. 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 a cadaver. Sometimes, synthetic materials that can initate bone formation are used. After the bone is implanted, the incision is stitched up and the healing process begins. After several months of healing, the bone becomes part of the patient’s jaw and dental implants can be inserted and stabilized in this new sinus bone. In some cases, an “indirect” or “crestal” approach can be used to graft the sinus. In this technique, the floor of the sinus is elevated through the implant placment site. This approach can be used in select cases not requiring a large augmentation.
If enough bone between the upper jaw ridge and the bottom of the sinus is available to stabilize the implant well, sinus augmentations and implant placement can sometimes be performed as a single procedure. If not enough bone is available, the 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(s) can be placed.
The sinus graft makes it possible for many patients to have dental implants when years ago there was no other option besides wearing loose dentures.