The human skull contains several air spaces called sinuses, which are connected to our nasal passages. They have no particular function, but it is theorized that they evolved as a means to make the head lighter and more easily supported by the neck. The maxillary sinus is located in the upper jaw directly above the molar and bicuspid teeth. It is sometimes enlarged, creating thin bone, which would not provide good support for a dental implant.
A sinus lift (or sinus elevation) is a bone-grafting procedure that builds bone volume below the maxillary sinus. Patients with inadequate bone structure in their upper posterior jaw will sometimes require this procedure before a dental implant can be placed.
There are two types of sinus lift procedures. One type, called an osteotome sinus lift, involves a small instrument to push the floor of the sinus upward through the hole made for the dental implant. This technique is minimally invasive and is used when very little elevation is necessary. The other type, called a window sinus lift, requires an oval window in the bone lateral to the sinus. The soft tissue lining of the sinus, known as the sinus membrane, is carefully lifted and bone-grafting material is placed under it to provide support for a dental implant. A resorbable collagen barrier membrane is then placed over the window before closing and suturing the gum tissue.
Bone-grafting materials may be harvested from other areas of your mouth or obtained from a tissue bank (see bone grafts). No matter the source or technique used, the graft material will mature and develop into solid bone, providing a strong base for the dental implant.
Sinus lifts are safe and effective, and Drs. Bryant and Junge perform them routinely on patients as part of total implant and reconstructive plans.