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What is Sinus Lift Surgery?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Sinus lift surgery is a procedure used to increase the size and density of the upper jaw bone. The operation is needed when there is not enough bone tissue to set dental implants, such as crowns, bridges, or artificial molars, in the back of the mouth. Sinus lift surgery involves cutting a space in the upper gum, manually repositioning the maxillary sinus higher up in the cheeks, and grafting extra bone tissue to the jaw. The procedure can usually be performed in less than two hours, and patients typically are allowed to go home on the day of surgery. It has a very high success rate and few risks of complications.

Not everyone who requires dental implants needs to undergo sinus lift surgery. In fact, most people of all ages have enough natural bone tissue that implants will set properly without any manipulation of the upper jaw. People who have been missing teeth for several years and elderly people are the most likely to need the procedure. During an initial consultation, a dentist takes x-rays to determine the density of bone tissue and the size and location of the maxillary sinus. He or she can explain x-ray results and outline the risks and benefits of sinus lift surgery.

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The extra bone tissue needed for sinus lift surgery can come from a deceased donor, another part of the patient's body, or a synthetic calcium solution. When bone is used from a person's own body, it is usually harvested from the hipbones. While collecting natural bone tissue requires additional surgeries and recovery time, it is more likely than donor or synthetic tissue to mend together properly with the jaw bone.

On the day of the surgery, a patient is given a general anesthetic and placed in a reclining operating room chair. The dentist holds the cheek to the side with clamps and marks a spot on the inside of the upper gum to make an incision. A cut is made through gum and bone tissue, exposing the maxillary sinus on the other side. The dentist moves the sinus upward to make room for the graft. Granules of bone are inserted into the empty space, and the surgical opening is sealed with sutures.

Grafted bone tissue begins to grow together with the existing jaw bone in time. Bone from the patient's body hardens in about six months, while donor tissue may take up to one year. During recovery, patients are usually given painkillers and scheduled for regular checkups. Dental implant surgery can be scheduled once x-rays show that the bone is fully healed.

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