Why a Sinus Lift for Dental Implants May Be Necessary

sinus lift for dental implants

Since technological developments in the late 1990s, dental implants have considerably shaken up the field of dental restoration, unlike any other dental treatment.

Although dental implants are available for everyone, there is still a set of suitability requirements for dental implants that patients who opt for this treatment should consider, such as the one we will be talking about, sinus lifts.

Understanding the Anatomy

Before we take a full, deep dive into the details of getting a sinus lift, let’s first try to break down and understand the anatomy of the area that is involved in this treatment. The ‘maxillary sinuses’ are spaces filled with air that are located above the upper jaw (maxilla) and next to the roots of the upper back teeth. These sinuses can sometimes hang down a bit too close to the jawbone, take up space and leave insufficient bone height for dental implants to be placed.

Why Insufficient Bone Height Occurs

Several reasons can make this a possibility. Tooth loss is one of the primary factors; look at it this way: when a tooth is lost, the surrounding bone begins to gradually resorb or shrink over time because it is no longer stimulated by the pressure and activity that you were getting previously through chewing. 

Periodontal disease is another factor; it’s a chronic condition that affects the gums and can also lead to a degradation of the supporting bone around teeth. 

Although relatively rare, some individuals just naturally have less bone in the upper jaw, most prominently in the area of the molars and premolars. Finally, slow ageing can also cause our bones to lose their density, a condition that the bones in the jaw also face. Although zygomatic dental implants may circumvent this, sinus lifts are also an appropriate route.

What is a Sinus Lift?

The scientific definition goes like this: A sinus lift is a surgical procedure, the objective of which is to increase the amount of bone in the upper jaw area by lifting the sinus membrane and laying down a bone graft of the material of your choosing in the newly created space. 

In simple words, all permanent teeth implants require a certain amount of space in the jaw area to be placed in the best possible place. If the sinus membrane has dipped low and covers this space, it becomes hard to integrate the implant into the jaw. The dentist will then consider the possibility of getting a sinus lift, where the sinus membrane that is in the way is lifted to make space for the implant.

Types of Sinus Lift Procedures

Two sinus lift procedures are most usually performed. The lateral window technique, is one where the surgeon makes an incision in the tissue of the gum to expose the bone, where a small window is then created in the side of the maxillary sinus. The dentist gently and carefully lifts the sinus membrane and will pack some bone graft material into the space. This type of method is usually used when a severe amount of bone augmentation is required by the patient. 

On the other hand, though, the transrectal (osteotome) technique is a lighter, less invasive approach for people who don’t need a bone augmentation that is too severe. This procedure is only used when a minor lift is required and consists of the bone graft material being introduced through a small osteotomy site in the alveolar ridge (the bone graft material is placed into a small hole in the jawbone). The dentist will then simply use specialized instruments to lift the sinus membrane. 

Graft Materials Used in Sinus Lifts

The graft materials are the primary determining factor influencing whether your sinus lift will succeed. These are materials such as autogenous bone, which will be harvested from your body (usually from the hip or another part of the jaw). Allografts are safe, processed bone taken from a human donor. Xenografts are derived from animals (usually cows) and are another option. 

Alloplasts are synthetic bone substitutes and are made from biocompatible materials, which means that your body will welcome them and not react adversely. 

Each type of graft material has its own idiosyncrasies, advantages and different considerations. The choice of your treatment will usually depend on your specific needs and what the preferences of your surgeon might be.

The Sinus Lift Procedure: What to Expect

To start getting a sinus lift, schedule a consultation with a reputable oral surgeon or periodontist with sufficient experience in providing sinus lift treatment. The consultation will be the foundation of the rest of your treatment, including a professional examination of your medical history and a discussion of your dental goals. 

]They will use modern imaging techniques like cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans and X-rays to evaluate your sinus anatomy and determine the amount of existing bone. 

On the day of surgery, sinus lift procedures will usually be performed under local anaesthesia, which is sometimes combined with a type of light sedation to put you at ease. 

The surgeon that will be doing the operation will start by making an incision in the gum tissue and expose the jawbone so that they can create a small window in the bone; they will then carefully initiate the lifting of the membrane to create space for the bone graft, of a material of your own choosing which will be placed into the space; finally, the incision will be closed carefully with sutures.

The ensuing healing process will heavily depend on consistent follow-up visits and postoperative care. You can generally expect to face some swelling and discomfort, which you can easily manage with the pain medication and ice packs you will be prescribed. Follow-up visits will help monitor the healing process and ensure the graft material and bone are healing harmoniously. Along with following all the general recommendations, make sure that you follow all post-surgery instructions given by the dentist as well. Doing so will minimize the risk of a failed procedure.

Potential Risks and Complications

It’s quite common for most medical treatments to have a possibility of complications that go along with them, no matter how successful the treatment is. The most common (although generally very rare) in the sinus lift treatment is an unfortunate complication called ‘sinus membrane perforation’. Although, the surgeon usually manages or repairs this condition during the surgery itself. 

Infections might also occur in the postoperative period but don’t worry, as these can be controlled with antibiotics. In relatively rare cases, there’s a chance that the bone graft may not integrate properly, and further intervention might be required. 

Despite these possible complications, sinus lifts generally have quite high success rates and are considered safe, especially when performed by surgeons who are experienced in these treatments. Thorough consultations will also help you find the best teeth replacement option for you in case sinus lifts show complications.


In this blog, we provided a detailed analysis of the reasons why a sinus lift might become a necessity for patients; we also elucidated what the sinus lift treatment is, its details and the potential complications that can occur.

If you are seeking more information about sinus lifts or want a personalized assessment and plan for your dental problems, feel free to contact or visit the Charlotte Implant Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina. Schedule a consultation with our experienced staff now!

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