Located above the upper back teeth are the maxillary sinuses, one of your four pairs of sinuses. They are hollow spaces lined with sinus membrane that is part of the respiratory system. The function of the sinuses has long been a debate, but it has been determined that they play an important role in breathing physiology. Where they are located however, frequently imposes a limit to the depth of available bone for placing a dental implant. Surgical bone grafting techniques were developed to manage this problem.
The following analogy explains the solution. Picture your upstairs hallway that has a square trap door (surgical entry point) opening into your attic (your maxillary sinus). Picture your attic with a large sheet of black plastic lining the floor (your sinus membrane). Picture getting up on a ladder, taking out the trap door and now envision looking at the underside of the black plastic lining your attic floor. Now, take your arm and push up or “lift up” the black plastic (sinus lift) and you will create space between the floor of the attic and the new raised position of the black plastic. Envision that if you filled in around your arm with something, (bone graft material) you will have permanently raised the black plastic. The graft material then converts to your own bone and you have effectively increased the amount of bone available into which one can place an implant, without actually invading the sinus.
There is a solution and it’s called a sinus graft or sinus lift graft. The dental implant surgeon enters the sinus from where the upper teeth used to be. The sinus membrane is then lifted upward and donor bone is inserted into the floor of the sinus. Keep in mind that the floor of the sinus is the roof of the upper jaw. After several months of healing, the bone becomes part of the patient’s jaw and dental implants can be inserted and stabilized in this new sinus bone. The sinus graft makes it possible for many patients to have dental implants when years ago there was no other option other than wearing loose dentures.
If enough bone between the upper jaw ridge and the bottom of the sinus is available to stabilize the implant well, sinus augmentations and implant placement can sometimes be performed as a single procedure. If not enough bone is available, the Sinus Augmentation will have to be performed first, then the graft will have to mature for several months, depending upon the type of graft material used. Once the graft has matured, the implants can be placed.
For some patients, the safe and effective placement of dental implants in their upper jaw requires elevating their sinuses to make room for a bone graft. If you need a sinus lift, schedule a visit with Dr. Phillips. He helped numerous patients achieve a healthier smile with a sinus lift. To get started, you can schedule your sinus lift consultation today by calling the office at (202)463-2090 or book an appointment online to get started.