Did you know that over the past decade, more and more people are getting dental implants, which has made the need for sinus lifts much more common? You may be wondering “what exactly is a sinus lift?”.  When do you need a sinus lift? How do you prepare for sinus lift surgery and what are the risks? As board-certified practitioners, we are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality care and answers to your questions. If you need a sinus lift procedure in the Salt Lake area, click the button below to request an appointment or give us a call!

What is a sinus lift?

A sinus lift, or sinus augmentation, is a surgery which allows your periodontist to place dental implants if there is bone loss on the maxillary (upper jaw). If you need dental implants, but because of bone loss you don’t have enough bone to support your dental implants, a sinus lift can increase the amount of bone in your upper jaw by adding bone to the space between your molars and premolars. In order to make room for the bone, your sinus membrane has to be “lifted”, or moved upward.

When do you need a sinus lift?

If you don’t have enough bone height in your upper jaw, or your sinus are too low,  a sinus lift can help. There are a few reasons you may not have enough bone in your jaw. A few of them are:

  • Losing teeth in your upper jaw
  • Periodontal gum disease
  • Reabsorption of bone into your body after tooth loss

Sinus lift vs sinus bump

If you need 5-10 mm of bone, you will need a sinus lift. This is done by making a vertical incision, creating access for the sinus to be lifted up 5-10mm, adding in bone, and then closing the area. If you need 2-4 mm of bone, then a sinus bump, which is less invasive, is the better option for you. This is done by creating a space to access the area from the base of the gums near your teeth. 

What happens before a sinus lift surgery?

Before your sinus lift surgery, we will help you determine where we’ll get the extra bone from. The three most common types of bone used in sinus surgeries are:

  • Bone from a cadaver (allogenic bone)
  • Bone from a cow (xenograft). Xenograft is also called Bio-Oss and is the material most commonly used in sinus lifts. It is sterilized bone (from cattle) and is treated to make it safe for use in humans.

A membrane patch may also be placed over the bone graft to protect it.

The bone, or graft material, is used to create a scaffold for your own bone to grow into, which takes anywhere from 4-12 months.

You will also need to get x-rays taken. X-rays are needed for multiple reasons. X-rays allow for the doctor to see your anatomy. The periodontist will use them to determine if a sinus bump or a lift is needed or if neither is needed for an implant placement. 

How can you prepare for sinus lift surgery?

  • If your procedure requires oral sedation or IV sedation, then patients are asked to not eat or drink 6 hours before the surgery. We ask a driver to come to the treatment and stay in office for the duration of treatment and take you home. 
  • Take your usual medications
  • Before surgery, take medications you would take for headaches (ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
  • Bring any retainers your dentist had your wear during your scan before the sinus lift surgery.
  • Arrive at your appointment on time.

Most sinus lift procedures are performed while you are awake using local anesthesia to numb the area. We only use general anesthesia when we predict the surgery may be difficult, or when multiple procedures are needed. Depending on the complexity, the procedure can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. You will be able to drive yourself home if only local anesthesia is required. But if general anesthesia is needed, you will need to arrange to be driven home.

Asking for your consent

We want to include in every decision concerning your care and treatment. Our staff will explain the benefits, risks, and alternatives to you. If you decide to move forward with the procedure, we will ask you to sign a consent form. This confirms that you agree to have the procedure and that you understand all that is involved with it. If you are unsure about any aspect of your proposed surgery, please don’t hesitate to talk to a senior member of our staff about your concern.

Sinus lift procedure

In general terms, here is what will take place during your sinus lift:

  • Your surgeon will flap your gum tissue.
  • The gum tissue is then raised, which exposes the bone underneath.
  • The surgeon flaps a small circle in your bone.
  • The surgeon lifts the bony piece into your sinus cavity space, then fills the whole with a bone graft.
  • Your surgeon will close your incision.
  • The healing process begins.

Approximately 4-12 months after your sinus lift, your dentist will place your implants. This time period gives the newly placed bone time to correctly merge with your existing bone. The largest determining factor as to how long you have to wait before your sinus lift procedure and your implant procedure typically depends on how much bone you need. Your dental professional will let you know when they’ll be able to place your implants.

What happens after surgery?

You will most likely only experience minor discomfort after surgery. You may experience slight swelling, and you may also experience some light bleeding from the nose and/or mouth the first few days after your sinus lift. 

For the first few days after surgery, try not to blow your nose often, and avoid irritants that typically make you sneeze. Both blowing your nose and sneezing after surgery can cause your stitches to loosen. Please be cautious.

In normal healing, you should expect:

  • Pain to be controlled with ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Swelling to be at its worst 2 days after surgery
  • Bruising over the cheek and lower jaw
  • Feeling back to normal approximately 2-3 weeks after surgery

Risks associated

The main risk associated with a sinus lift is that your membrane could puncture or tear. If this happens, your surgeon will either stitch the sinus tear or place a patch over it. If this repair isn’t successful, your surgeon will stop the procedure in order to give the tear time to heal. Your surgeon can redo the sinus lift once your tear is healed.

You also may experience your sinuses feeling “full” or “blocked” for a week or so after your procedure. Vertigo is another possible side effect, but it is temporary and also rare. 

As with any surgery, it is possible to get an infection after your sinus lift, but it’s good to note that infections from a sinus lift are uncommon. Our doctors will give you a prescription for an antibiotic to help prevent any infections that could occur. 

Reasons to call a periodontist after surgery

Healing from a sinus lift procedure is typically pretty straightforward. However, there are some circumstances in which you may need extra support from your periodontist. These include: 

  • Swelling or pain that increases over time
  • Bleeding that is bright red and/or continuous
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop after 1-2 days
  • You have a fever
  • If there’s drainage coming from the sinuses into your mouth

You will have a follow-up appointment approximately 2-3 weeks after surgery. Your stitches will be removed at this appointment, and you will be kept under review until your implant procedure. 

Alternatives to sinus lift surgery

The most common alternatives to sinus lifts include:

  • A shorter implant
  • Fewer implants which are placed further forward.
  • Bridges fixed on adjacent teeth
  • Dentures
  • No implant; learning to live with the gap

Conclusion on sinus lift procedures

If you need a sinus lift, now you know what to expect. Our experts here at Utah Periodontal Specialists are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality care by utilizing the most trusted and scientifically proven techniques with the ultimate goal of restoring health through highly effective periodontal and implant therapy. Call us today to set up an appointment or click the button below!