A sinus lift is surgery that adds bone to your upper jaw in the area of your molars and premolars. It’s sometimes called a sinus augmentation. The 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. This could be either an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a periodontist.
A sinus lift is done when there is not enough bone height in the upper jaw, or the sinuses are too close to the jaw, for dental implants to be placed. There are several reasons for this:
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).
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 computed tomography (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.
Your surgeon will cut the gum tissue where your back teeth used to be. The tissue is raised, exposing the bone. A small, oval window is opened in the bone. The membrane lining the sinus on the other side of the window separates your sinus from your jaw. This membrane is gently pushed up and away from your jaw.
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. Your implants will be placed four to nine months later. This allows time for the grafted material to mesh with your bone. The amount of time depends on the amount of bone needed.
After the procedure, you may have some swelling of the area. You may bleed 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 have only a little discomfort after a sinus-lift procedure.
You will see the specialist after 7 to 10 days. He or she will evaluate the surgical site and remove stitches if they will not dissolve on their own. You might be asked to return a few more times to make sure the area is healing properly.
After a sinus lift, you need to wait several months for the bony material to harden and integrate with your jaw. Depending on the grafting material used, implants may be placed in four to nine months.
Some specialists have started using proteins called growth factors to help the new bone harden faster. Platelet-rich plasma, which contains the growth factors, is taken from your blood before surgery and mixed with the graft that is placed into your sinus. Human-recombinant bone morphogenetic protein is an engineered protein that is now available. It stimulates bone formation without grafting. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved its use during a sinus lift procedure.
After a sinus lift, contact your surgeon if:
Any swelling or pain gets worse over time. (It should decrease after the first two days or so.)
The bleeding does not stop after one to two days.
Bleeding is bright red and continuous. (Normal bleeding after this procedure oozes slowly and is dark red with possible clots.)
You think the bony material may have been dislodged after sneezing or blowing your nose.
Pain does not decrease over time.
You develop a fever.