What is a Sinus?
The maxillary sinuses are behind your cheeks and above the upper teeth. These sinuses are empty, air-filled spaces. Some of the roots of the upper teeth extend up into the maxillary sinuses and 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 wall is very thin, it is impossible to place dental implants in this bone.
The Sinus Lift/Augmentation Procedure:
The key to a successful and long-lasting dental implant is the quality and amount of jawbone to which the implant will be placed into. 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.
In most cases, the less invasive sinus lift procedure can be done to raise the floor of the sinus a few millimeters to allow for placement of a longer and therefore, stronger implant to support a crown. A small hole in which the implant will be place is made just below the sinus floor. The sinus floor is then gradually raised up and the graft material and implant are placed simultaneously.
In the sinus augmentation procedure, a small incision is made in 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 a processed bone grafting material from a either a bovine source or a synthetic ceramic that will imitate bone formation. 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 jaw and dental implants can be placed and stabilized in this new sinus bone.
If enough bone between the upper jaw ridge and the bottom of the sinus is available to stabilize the implant, sinus augmentation 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 implants 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 dentures.