What is a Sinus?
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 lower sinus wall is very low after tooth extraction healing, there often is not enough height of usable bone to place dental implants without a sinus lift procedure.
The Sinus lift or Augmentation Procedure
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 enough in the area to allow for new bone formation.
In the most common sinus augmentation procedure, a small incision is made on 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 carefully pushed upward. The underlying space is filled with bone grafting material, usually from a cadaver. Sometimes, synthetic materials that can imitate bone formation are used. After the bone is placed, the implant can often be placed at this same appointment. The implant is stabilized in the thin band of healed solid bone, while the upper 1/3 to 1/2 of the implant is placed into the new sinus grafted bone. After several months of healing, the bone becomes part of the patient’s jaw and dental implant(s) can be restored with screw-retained or an abutment-supported implant crown(s).
If not enough bone is available to initially support the implant, 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 implants can be placed.
The sinus graft makes it possible for many patients to now have dental implants when years ago there was no other option besides wearing loose-fitting dentures. In cases of one or two missing teeth, fixed bridges, requiring unnecessary damage/preparation to the adjacent supporting teeth would be the option.