A Guide to Sinus Lifts

As high quality dental care becomes more accessible and more affordable, treatments which were rare twenty years ago are now becoming much more common. Dental sinus lifts are a good example of this type of work. As an increasing number of people require dental sinus lifts, it is important that information is available to patients so that they can understand what lies ahead.

Nowadays, many more people are having lost teeth replaced. The reason for this is that the process to replace lost teeth is easier and the materials available to your dentist are more varied and much cheaper. However, as more people seek to have their teeth replaced, dentists are finding that there is also an increased requirement for dental sinus lifts. A sinus lift is most simply explained as a bone graft onto which your new teeth can be securely attached.

Usually, missing teeth are replaced by dental implants. A dental implant is attached to a metal rod which is drilled directly into the jawbone. In some cases, however, there is not enough existing bone for the implant to be attached to securely. This is when a sinus lift is usually required.

Why is there not enough jawbone in some areas? There can be a number of reasons for this. In some cases, it can simply be due to the natural shape of the skull – especially if you’ve lost teeth at the back of your mouth. Alternatively, gum disease can cause the bone to be eroded as well as the gums. Also, if you have been missing teeth for a long time before deciding to get them replaced, your body may naturally have begun to reabsorb the bone so it is no longer required.

Finally, as the name for the treatment suggests, the position of the sinus can have implications. If the sinus is very close to the bone where the implants need to be secured, this can also mean that extra bone needs to be grafted into place before the implant can be attached.

In modern dentistry, the surgical procedure is common and straightforward. The most important element of the preparation from your dentist’s perspective is to ensure that your jawbone and sinus position are measured very accurately. This usually requires an X-ray.

In most procedures, the surgeon will need to increase the thickness of the jawbone by several millimetres. Therefore, the surgeon will cut and lift the gum to expose the bone and then also cut into the bone so that the sinus membrane behind it is revealed. Once this has been done, the surgeon then grafts the new bone material into the space between the membrane and the jawbone.

The big question is, where does the new bone material come from? The answer is that it can come from a variety of sources. It could come from a donor or your surgeon may choose to use synthetic material. Alternatively, your surgeon could also use your own bone, which may be recovered from areas such as your hip or shinbone.

Once the procedure has been completed and your gum has been stitched up again, it will take around nine months for the graft to take and to become strong enough to allow implants. After all, the dental sinus lift is really only the first phase of your treatment. Once the sinus lift has been deemed successful by your dentist, you can progress to having your implants made and your teeth finally replaced. The implants themselves usually take around three months, and a couple of visits to your dentist, to fit.

Some people can be ready to receive their implants in as little as six months. Every case is individual. Some dentists also use proteins to try to accelerate the healing time.

As we mentioned above, the sinus lift procedure is usually straightforward and there are few risks associated with it. One of the main problems occurs when the membrane tears, due to the added pressure of the extra bone. In the majority of cases, the membrane can be repaired and the procedure attempted again at a later date. When the membrane has been repaired, it is often stronger so the procedure usually works well the second time.