What Is a Sinus Lift and Why Do I Need One?


Dental implants are an excellent option for replacing missing teeth. They feel and look just like your natural teeth and can last a lifetime. For the implant to be an appropriate choice, you need to have adequate bone to support the implant. In some instances, there is not enough bone height in the upper jaw, or the sinuses are too close to the jaw. A sinus lift is then required for dental implants to be placed. 

What exactly is a sinus lift?

A sinus lift is a procedure that allows your oral surgeon to add bone material in the upper jaw area of molars and premolars under the sinus cavity. It is also called sinus augmentation. The sinus membrane has to be lifted to make room for the added bone material. It’s typically performed in advance of implant placement surgery, so to allow time for bone healing.

Why does bone material have to be added?

  • Anatomy. There is less bone in the back of the upper jaw than in the lower one. Also, sometimes the problem is with the maxillary sinus – the shape and size vary in different people. It can be too close to the upper jaw for implants to be placed.
  • Loss of teeth may have led to a loss of bone, notably if they have been missing for a long time.
  • Periodontal disease causes bone loss.

What’s involved in the procedure?

You will need X-rays – usually computed tomography (CT) scan – taken before your sinus lift. The surgeon uses this scan to accurately measure the height and width of your existing bone and to evaluate the health of your sinus.

During the procedure, your surgeon will cut the gum tissue where your back teeth used to be. The tissue is raised, exposing the bone through which a small window is opened. The membrane lining of the sinus on the other side of the window is gently pushed up and away from your jaw. Then granules of bone-graft material are packed into space where the sinus was. Once the granules are in place, the tissue is closed with stitches.

To prevent infection, patients are given an antibiotic and an antimicrobial mouthwash. Most patients have only a little discomfort after a sinus-lift procedure, although pain medication is recommended. A follow-up appointment is scheduled for seven to ten days later.

In most cases, it takes four to nine months for the grafted material become part of your jaw. After that period you will be ready to begin the process with your implant team. 

Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!

Dr. Nishan Halim

Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as preventive dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. Dr. Halim works as part of the team for dental implants and will make the appropriate referrals for your particular case.

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