What is a Sinus?
The maxillary sinuses are behind your cheeks and on top of the upper teeth. These sinuses are empty, air-filled spaces. Some of the roots of the natural upper teeth extend up into the sinuses. When these upper teeth are removed, the bone often collapses leaving a thin wall of bone separating the maxillary sinus and the mouth. Dental implants need bone to hold them in place. When the sinus wall is very thin, there may not be adequate bone volume to place an implant.
The Sinus Augmentation Procedure
The key to a successful and long-lasting dental implant is the quality and quantity of jawbone to which the implant will be attached. If bone loss has occurred in or around the sinus, a sinus augmentation procedure can raise the sinus floor and allow for new bone formation.
If there is adequate remaining bone, the sinus can be elevated at the time of implant placement preventing the necessity for two separate surgeries. The membrane lining the sinus is pushed upward through the same opening that the implant will be placed. The underlying space may be filled with bone grafting material. The dental implant will be placed and the healing process begins. After several months of healing, the implant can be restored.
If there is minimal to no bone in the sinus, the bone graft will need to be performed first. There are two types of sinus augmentation and the appropriate approach depends on the amount of remaining bone. In this procedure, the bone will need to heal for approximately six months prior to implant placement. The sinus graft makes it possible for many patients to have dental implants when years ago there was no other option besides wearing loose dentures.
Before Sinus Augmentation. The dark space at the top of the photo is the sinus. The remaining bone is the thin white line between the teeth.
After Sinus Augmentation. In this view sinus augmentation has been performed. The oval white structure is the bone graft material.