A sinus lift is a procedure designed to increase the amount of available bone in the upper jaw. This extra bone is needed for the successful attachment of dental implants. Once the sinus membrane has been lifted, a bone graft can take place.
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A sinus lift is a procedure designed to add bone to the upper jaw in readiness for a cosmetic procedure - usually a dental implant. Often referred to as a sinus augmentation, the procedure aims to reposition the sinus membrane to make way for new, grafted bone. Most people require a sinus lift as preparation for dental implant surgery. If you've lost teeth and want them replaced, this is often the most effective way of replacing them. However, for implants to work, they need bone for anchoring. Unfortunately, jaw bone can deteriorate and vanish as we grow older.
Before a sinus lift can begin, replacement bone must be sourced for the graft. This can be taken from you (possibly from your mouth, your leg or your hip). Before surgery can begin, your surgeon or dentist will need to take detailed X-rays of your jaw. This will provide an anatomy map of both your jaw and your sinus membrane. If more detailed information is required, a CT scan may be necessary. This allows the surgeon or dentist to take exact measurements in readiness for surgery.
The procedure begins with an incision on the gum. The gum tissue is then raised in order to expose the jaw bone underneath. The surgeon has to cut out a small opening in the jaw in order to gain access to your sinus membrane. Very gently, the surgeon then pushes the membrane upwards - and away from the bone. Once the dentist has successfully moved the membrane, the surgeon can start to pack the resultant space with replacement bone. In most cases, several millimetres of grafted bone are required to fill the space.
Once the space left by the sinus membrane has been fully packed with bone, the surgeon can close the wound with stitches. Then follows a period of recovery, during which the grafted material is given time to merge with the jaw bone. Only after three to six months can work on the actual dental implant begin.
The basic principle of a sinus lift is always the same. The only difference is the way in which the surgeon gains access to the sinus membrane. The most common method is the lateral window technique. The crestal core elevation and osteotome technique are less common. However, both of these techniques can lead to less pain and shorter recovery times. Your surgeon or dentist will discuss which of the methods will be used for your procedure.
In recent years, some specialists have started to use protein growth factors. In some patients, these factors aid faster healing, helping the graft to combine with the existing bone within just a few weeks. The surgeon takes these growth factors from your own blood before the procedure. They're then added to the graft material before insertion into your jaw.
You'll be given a local anaesthetic before the procedure, so don't expect a great deal of pain while you're in the dentist's chair. However, there may be pain, swelling and discomfort during the first few days afterwards. While some dentists will offer to fix the dental implants at the same time as the sinus lift, this is rare. You'll probably need to wait a few months after the sinus lift for your implants.
A little bleeding from your mouth and nose after a sinus lift is normal. You'll be given some clear instructions for looking after your general wellbeing and dental health. Make sure you follow them.