What is a Sinus Lift?

What is a Sinus Lift?

A sinus lift is a surgical procedure that lifts the floor of the maxillary sinus cavity in order to make room for a dental implant. Sinus lift procedures take place in the upper jaw, in the region of molars or premolars. The maxillary sinus cavity is an air space above the upper back teeth and behind the cheekbones. It serves to lighten the skull and humidify and filter the air we breathe.

When the upper back teeth, which sit below the sinus cavity, are missing, the sinus often enlarges (called pneumatization) and shortens the amount of bone available in the upper jaw. Sometimes this can happen while the teeth are in the roots. Molars have 3 roots, and sometimes the sinus grows downward between the roots. This loss of bone affects the surgeon’s ability to replace the missing tooth with a dental implant. 

The inside of the sinus cavity is lined with a thin membrane, which can be lifted in order to accommodate a bone graft that provides enough height and width of bone to support a dental implant. Your surgeon can manipulate this membrane through a small “window” on the cheek side of the upper jaw (called a lateral window) or through the surgical opening for the dental implant (sometimes referred to as a “bump”).

What does the Sinus have to do with Dental Implants?

When we replace missing teeth with dental implants, the long-term stability directly correlates to the size of the dental implants. Logically, you would never want to place a large molar-sized crown on top of a short, narrow implant. The goal of dental implants is to replace the tooth’s root and support normal chewing forces. We achieve more stability with a long, large-diameter implant, but this is possible only when enough jawbone is present. By lifting the floor of the sinus cavity, we are capable of increasing the height of bone and placing a longer, more stable dental implant.

Why do Some Implants Require a Sinus Lift?

In general, the longer an upper back tooth is missing, the greater chance there is for enlargement of the sinus cavity. Many people wait longer than the recommended time frame after a tooth extraction to proceed with the dental implant, which decreases the available bone height. Certain anatomical variations also predispose some people to lower sinus floors than others. 

When planning the replacement of a missing tooth with a dental implant, we place a high priority on pre-operative planning. Our planning includes, when indicated, a three-dimensional image, which allows us to take precise measurements of the bone in the site of the proposed implant and foresee the need for a sinus lift procedure. We base the decision on the current height of bone available as compared to the most favorable size of the dental implant, which is necessary to bear that tooth’s chewing force.

What Can I Expect from a Sinus Lift Procedure?

During the sinus lift procedure, you should not feel any pain. Local anesthetic provides numbness to the site of surgery. It’s important to note that local anesthetic does not remove the sensation of pressure, so you may feel tapping or pushing behind your cheekbone. 

Some sinus lift surgeries will require stitches, and others do not. If the sinus lift procedure takes place in conjunction with the placement of the dental implant, you probably will not need any stitches. If your jaw requires a lateral “window” sinus lift, the surgeon will use stitches to close the surgical site.

After the procedure, you may have post-operative discomfort and pressure-type pain, like a sinus headache. A dull throbbing or ache is normal, and your surgeon will help you manage any pain with medication.

How Long is the Recovery from a Sinus Lift?

The healing of the gum tissues takes about two weeks in healthy adults. Gums close and return to normal much more quickly than the underlying bone. After this initial healing phase, you can return to normal eating, drinking, brushing and flossing.

The underlying bone requires a longer healing period. It takes several months for your natural bone to grow into the grafted bone material. Your surgeon will monitor this closely with dental x-rays. This healing time can take three to six months. This is the same length of time required for the bone to firmly attach to the dental implant. 

Only after your surgeon confirms the stability of the dental implant can you proceed with building the crown atop the implant and resuming normal chewing in this area.

Expert Dental Implants at Rockland Dental Specialists

Rockland Dental Specialists offers expert dental care in the New City, NY area, including dental implants, bone grafting, and sinus lifts. Dr. Lisa Nava Cohen and Dr. Shalom Mintz are here to bring you the best oral care possible with their more than two decades of combined experience. They are passionate about helping patients maintain their overall oral health. Contact us today at (845) 809-0109 to speak with one of our team members about the services we offer or book an appointment online here.


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