A dental sinus lift is a treatment which is used to increase the amount of bone structure in the upper jaw. In most cases bone will be grafted to the areas located on either side of your nose near the maxillary sinuses and your jaw. In order to make sufficient room for the bone the procedure often requires a lifting of the sinus membrane. A dental sinus lift is usually called for when a certain area doesn't have enough bone for dental implants to be safely placed. There are a number of factors which can influence the amount of bone in the area including; losing teeth in the upper jaw, gum disease, the vicinity of the maxillary sinus or the maxillary sinus growing too near to the upper jaw as the patient ages.
Bone used in Sinus Lifts
The bone can be taken either from your own body (which is called autogenous bone) or from a cadaver (allogeneic bone). Due to recent innovations in dental technology it is now possible to use a variety of materials to stimulate the formation of bone. If the procedure involves use of the patients own bone, it is commonly taken from other areas of your mouth or somewhere else in your body like your hip or tibia.
The Sinus Lift Procedure
Before commencing surgery it is normal to have a number of X-ray photographs taken of the area in order to get a detailed look at your jaw and sinus structure. In some cases a CT (computed tomography) scan is also needed so that precise measurements of the width and height of your bone structure can be taken.
The first step in the procedure is to make an incision into the gum tissue which surrounds your molars and premolars. The next step is to raise the tissue so that the bone is exposed. Your sinus has a lining of membrane which separates your jaw from your sinus and has to be pushed away so that room can be made for the material which will be used in the bone graft for dental implant. This bone-graft substance will then be packed tightly into the space. There are a number of factors which will influence how much bone will be used during the graft but it is common to use at least several millimetres of bone. Once the bone is carefully secured in place the tissue is closed and stitched. Between four and nine months after the operation the area is usually ready for implant surgery.
Aftercare & Recovery following a Sinus Lift
After treatment it is normal for patients to experience swelling in the affected area and some patients also experience bleeding from their nose or mouth. It is vital that you avoid sneezing or blowing your nose as this can cause issues with the stitches or the bone graft material itself. It is common to be prescribed a saline spray in order to keep the lining of your nose wet. Pain medication is often prescribed along with an antibiotic or antimicrobial mouthwash which helps protect you from infection and aid the healing process.
You will need to have a follow up visit in order to remove the sutures and monitor your progress which usually occurs about a week after treatment. You will have several more follow up visits throughout the recovery period to make sure you are healing properly. Which material is used for the graft, often affects the time it takes for integration. Your own bone usually integrates the quickest.
Risks with a Sinus Lift
Sinus lifts have an excellent safety record but as with any surgical operations there are some risks. The most likely problem to occur is ripping, tearing or otherwise puncturing the sinus membrane. Fortunately, this is easily solved through stitching or patching. In very rare cases the natural bone in the area won't integrate successfully with the material used in the graft which means implants cannot be placed. Infections can occur but are not very common during sinus lift procedures.