In dentistry, a sinus lift bone graft is used in cases when patients need bone augmentation in the upper jaw. A sinus lift surgery may become necessary in dental implant surgeries when patients lack the prerequisite bone density for the placement of implants. The upper back jaw is usually problematic as it is considered the most difficult area for successfully holding dental implants due to inadequate bone quality, quantity, and because of sinus proximity.

Patients can lose bone in the upper jaw area due to periodontal diseases and tooth loss. A sinus lift bone graft procedure can help correct this problem and increase the chances of implant success. It is called a “sinus lift” surgery because it implies moving the sinus membrane upward to make room for the bone grafts. The procedure is usually performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a periodontist.

Cases when sinus lift is used

Sinus lift bone grafting is a common procedure used in cases when:

  • Patients lack bone height in the upper jaw because they have lost their back teeth or molars, which lead to bone resorption;
  • Patients simply lack enough bone structure due to the anatomy of the scalp;
  • Patients have lost bone due to periodontal disease;
  • The maxillary sinus of the patient is too close to the upper jaw.

Given that more and more patients opt for dental implants, sinus lift bone graft surgeries have significantly increased in the last 15 years.

Bone grafting

Bones used in a sinus lift are either harvested and processed from animals or the patient’s own bone (autogenous grafts). Bones harvested from animals (e.g. cows) are called xenografts, and comprise the mineral content of natural bone. Natural bone is sterilised and all organic materials are removed. The use of bovine bone has become the most commonly used bone grafting method, and it has been a proven and tested technique for many years.

In preparation of the surgery, your dentist will examine the anatomy of your jaw and sinus. A CT scan is usually done to measure the exact height and width of your existing bone. The health of your sinus is also evaluated.

Sinus lift surgery

The actual surgery is performed by making an incision into the gum tissue and raising it to expose the existing bone. Then a small opening is done into the bone. The sinus membrane is lifted up and the space underneath is filled with bone graft material. Once the procedure is done, the incision is closed. In the following 4-9 months after the procedure, the grafted material will fuse with your bone creating space for dental implants.

After the surgery

Patients can experience some swelling and bleeding after the sinus lift surgery, and the dentist will prescribe medicine to prevent inflammation and infection. The dentist will also instruct patients not to blow their nose or sneeze forcefully as these could cause the bone-graft material to move and stiches to loosen. Patients will have to make a few follow-up appointments so that their doctor can evaluate if they are healing properly.