If you have a compromised upper jawbone, you may need a sinus lift before you can receive implants. Also called a sinus augmentation, this procedure involves rebuilding the upper jaw and raising the sinus membranes. By doing so, your dentist can make room for implant posts and reduce your risk of sinus damage. Though a sinus lift will lengthen the overall treatment timeline, it can ensure the success of dental implants.
Sinus lift surgery adds bone tissue to the upper jaw to prevent implants from disturbing the soft tissues of the sinuses.
When Is Sinus Augmentation Necessary?
Your dental roots play an important role in the stability of your jawbone. Every time your teeth touch, your roots emit tiny regenerative signals. These signals keep your jawbone strong and healthy. Unfortunately, when you are missing one or more teeth, your jaw no longer receives stimulation. As a result, the bone can start to recede very quickly.
If you have sustained bone recession on your upper jaw, you may not qualify for dental implants. Without enough support from your bone, the implants could become loose or even fall out entirely. Furthermore, your sinus membranes run parallel to your upper jaw. If the bone is too thin, implant surgery could rupture or otherwise damage the membranes. Fortunately, sinus augmentation can prevent these complications and restore your eligibility for dental implants.
If you would not otherwise qualify for implants, sinus augmentation may allow you to receive a long-lasting solution to tooth loss.
Candidates for a Sinus Lift
In addition to the structure of your jaw, there are several other considerations that will affect your candidacy for sinus augmentation. To qualify for treatment, you must be in good overall health. If you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition that could impact healing, elective surgery may not be advisable. Your dentist will evaluate your medical history, as well as your jaw stability, before recommending treatment.
Preparing for Surgery
A thorough consultation with your dentist or oral surgeon is an essential step in preparing for sinus augmentation. When planning your treatment, your doctor will take into account the size and location of bone grafts, the type of grafting material, and how much to raise your sinus membranes. For the best possible results, your doctor will take x-rays and, in some cases, computed tomography (CT) scans. These images will produce an accurate picture of your upper jaw. You will also receive guidelines to help you prepare for your surgery at home. These steps may include:
- Quitting smoking at least two weeks prior to your procedure
- Eliminating anti-inflammatories and anticoagulants about two weeks before surgery
- Eating healthy protein and vitamin-rich foods
- Stocking up on healthy snacks for your recovery period
You should also plan to take several days off from work while your body recovers from the procedure.
The Sinus Augmentation Procedure
Your dentist will perform your sinus augmentation surgery under local anesthesia. You may also receive a deeper form of sedation to ensure your comfort and peace of mind. After administering sedation, your dentist or oral surgeon will make small incisions in your gums where the jaw is to be rebuilt. Your doctor can then create a small, oval-shaped opening in the bone to gain access to the sinus membranes. The next step is to lift the membrane and place the grafting material. You may a graft made of your own bone, donor tissue, animal bone, or a synthetic substitute. The graft will keep your sinus membrane from drooping and simultaneously fortify the overall structure of your jaw. Once complete, the incisions will be closed with sutures.
Recovery from Sinus Augmentation
Sinus augmentation does involve several weeks of recovery. To prevent discomfort and avoid complications, you should:
- Avoid strenuous exercise for a week or more
- Apply ice packs to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Eat a soft diet for several days and reintroduce foods slowly
- Use a saline mouth rinse to prevent infection
- Exercise caution when brushing your teeth, especially near the incision sites
- Take all medications and anti-inflammatories as instructed
- Avoid using a straw for several weeks
- Not sneeze if at all possible
- Not blow your nose for at least a month after surgery
The side effects of sinus augmentation may include swelling, bruising, and bleeding. These should subside in a week or two. Full recovery typically takes six to nine months, after which you are free to undergo dental implant surgery.
The Risks of Sinus Augmentation
Sinus augmentation is very safe. With the use of ultra modern digital imaging, doctors can perform these treatments with the utmost precision. Nevertheless, even the safest surgical procedures still pose some risks. Potential risks of a sinus lift include:
- A punctured sinus membrane
- Sinus infection
- Bruising under your eyes
- Displacement of the graft
- Allergic reaction to or rejection of the grafting material
Choosing an experienced oral surgeon or dentist will greatly reduce your risk of complications.
The Benefits of Sinus Augmentation
Like most patients, you will likely find that the benefits of sinus augmentation greatly outweigh the commitment to recovery. If you would not otherwise qualify for implants, sinus augmentation may allow you to receive a long-lasting solution to tooth loss. Dental implants not only improve dental function but provide unrivaled support for crowns, bridges, and dentures. As dental implants act as artificial tooth roots, they can prevent further bone atrophy and protect the structure and longevity of your smile.
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