Preparation of the jawbone for a dental implant: The sinus lift procedure.

This page explains the type of bone augmentation (graft) that is sometimes required before a dental implant can be placed.

(If your case doesn't involve this type of procedure, you may want to skip on to our next page by using the blue tab above.)

What is a Sinus Lift?

A sinus lift is a bone-grafting procedure that's sometimes required in instances where the quantity of bone found in a patient's upper jaw (in the region originally occupied by their bicuspid or molar teeth) is inadequate to accommodate the length of a dental implant.

A dental implant cannot be placed in the area of the maxillary sinus.

An example of when sinus-lift surgery is needed.

There can be several reasons why the amount of bone found in a patient's upper jawbone might be insufficient to accommodate a dental implant.

One naturally occurring problem simply involves the situation where the size and shape of their maxillary sinus is relatively large in comparison to the size of their upper jawbone.

When this combination exists, there may not be enough bone thickness in which to embed a dental implant. (As shown in our graphic to the left.)

How does having a sinus lift change things?

During the sinus-lift procedure, a portion of the maxillary sinus is filled in with bone (grafting material). The result is a thicker sinus floor into which a tooth implant can then be placed. (As shown in our graphic below.)

A sinus lift in preparation for a dental implant.

How is the sinus lift procedure performed?

The sinus lift is a surgical procedure. The specific technique that the dentist utilizes can vary but traditionally the procedure has been performed as follows:

  1. The dentist will make an incision in the patient's gum tissue on the cheek side of their upper jaw in the area where the placement of the dental implant is planned (in the region originally occupied by their bicuspid or molar tooth).

    This incision allows the dentist to flap back the patient's gum tissue and expose the jawbone that lies underneath.

  2. The exposed bone is cut in a fashion where a "trap door" of bone (hinged at the top) is created. This movable section of bone is then pushed gently inward and upward into the sinus cavity.

    This bone movement caries the sinus membrane (attached to it) along with it, thus "lifting" the membrane (and hence the sinus floor) to a new, higher level.

    The empty space underneath the lifted sinus membrane is then packed with bone-graft material, thus providing the new bone into which a tooth implant can be placed.

  3. Once the bone-graft material has been positioned the gum tissue is stitched closed.

  4. In some instances, it can be possible that the dentist will place the dental implant at the same time that the sinus lift is performed.

    In most cases, however, a dentist will allow a healing period of six to nine months before the dental implant is placed. The specific time frame allowed for healing is dependent upon the type of bone-graft material that has been utilized.

What types of bone-graft materials are used with the sinus lift procedure?

Several different types of bone-graft materials can be utilized with sinus lift surgery.

  • In some cases, the patient's own bone will be used, such as that harvested from another location in their mouth or else from other bones [including the hip (iliac crest) or shin bone (tibia)].
  • In other instances, prepared bone (frozen bone, freeze-dried bone, demineralized freeze-dried bone), either human or from another species (i.e. bovine), can be purchased from a tissue bank for use.
  • Another alternative involves the use of synthetically derived graft material such as hydroxyapatite.
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