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Sinus lifting is a surgical dental procedure that sometimes precedes getting dental implants. It’s normal if you feel nervous before this type of surgery. Read ahead to learn more about this procedure, costs, and how to recover.
As the name of the procedure suggests, sinus lifting involves your sinuses. You may already have a vague idea what that is. If you have ever gotten a sore throat, your doctor may have said your sinuses are infected.
Sinuses are basically air-filled cavities located in various areas of your skull. You have sinuses on your forehead, sides of the nose, between the eyes, and behind each eye. The sinus lifting procedure involves the two sinuses near your nose, knows as maxillary sinuses.
Sinuses are surrounded by soft tissue with mucus glands and membranes. The maxillary sinuses are held in place by what’s called the Schneiderian membrane. It’s located inside your nasal chamber, where you smell things. The sinus lifting procedure raises the lower floor of this membrane. Doing so exposes your upper jaw, or posterior maxilla, bone area.
The main purpose of the sinus lifting procedure is to increase the amount of bone in your upper jaw for implants. Dental implants are screw-like devices that an oral surgeon drills into your jawbone. The implants should fuse into the jawbone to act as artificial roots for teeth (completed by an abutment and a crown).
Implants don’t work if you don’t have enough bone density. In the upper jaw, a dentist can create bone density with grafts. The sinus lifting is done as preparation for this procedure.
Prior to getting implants, you may need a sinus lifting procedure done under the following circumstances:
Lack of bone support for an implant in the upper jaw
Losing more than one tooth in the upper jaw
Genetic defects that cause upper jaw tooth or bone loss
You need multiple implants in the upper jaw
You require any surgical bone augmentation in the upper jaw
Your sinuses are too close to the upper jaw by birth
Essentially, lifting the sinuses make room for a bone graft. Meaning, the dentist increases bone density in the upper jaw using extra bone taken either from your own body, a cadaver, or a cow. The bone grafting will be a part of your sinus lifting procedure.
The procedure you undergo will depend on how your oral surgeon proceeds with the surgery. Here’s what you can expect in general:
When you go in for dental implants, your dentist will determine if you need a sinus lifting procedure done. You will be directed to an oral surgeon for further examination.
Your oral surgeon would take x-rays and CT scans of your upper jaw. These help the dentist and the surgeon understand where your sinuses are located. Your surgeon will also use the x-rays to measure how much upper jawbone you have left.
The first step also involved examining the health of your sinuses. Your sinuses should not be active when you undergo the procedure. So if you have a seasonal flu, allergies, or the occasional sniffles, it will have to pass before you are ready for the procedure.
During this preparation stage, your dentist or oral surgeon will discuss your overall medical history. You will need to undergo general anesthetic to be sedated for the surgery. So this will be something up for discussion. Your oral surgeon will ask your about any medications you are on, so the drugs will not counteract with any drugs you will get for the surgical procedure.
You can also discuss your bone grafting options with your dentist. During the procedure, the dentist will fill your upper jawbone with bones sourced from elsewhere.
When your sinuses are lifted, it creates a hole exposing your upper jawbone. The oral surgeon would then fill this hole with bone, adding more density to the bone. There are several types of bones you can choose from. These are broken down into either natural bone or synthetic variations. Here are your main options for bone grafting material:
Your own bone: You will have to undergo a several surgical procedure to get bone from your body to use as grafting material for the upper jawline. The bone usually comes from the big bones in your legs. Your bone maybe mixed with other material if necessary.
Cadaver bone: This is bone tissue donated by patients who have passed away. If you lack bone density in other parts of your body, you can opt for donated natural bone tissue.
Bovine bone: This is bone graft material derived from cow bones. You can discuss the suitability of this with your doctor.
Synthetic materials: This is non-natural material that can act as natural bone tissue in your jaw. Synthetic bone graft material include ceramics such as calcium sulphate or bioglass. You can use polymer-based materials like polylactic acid polymer too. There are many options nowadays that you can discuss with your dentist.
Your dentist will recommend either one of the above, or more likely, a combination of bone graft materials to use in the surgery.
The sinus lifting procedure will be completed by an expert oral surgeon. You will first be sedated and then the procedure will begin.
There are several techniques that dentists use to lift the sinuses. All the techniques start by making an incision into gums to expose the bone. The oral surgeon will have to make a small hole in the bone to get access to the sinus. This is called a “lateral window.”
The window exposes the sinus membrane. The surgeon will then use a special tool, like a spatula, to uplift the sinus floor above the upper jawbone. This process is very delicate. In some cases, the membrane tears. If this happens, the oral surgeon will fix it, but it would take more time, and might result in complications.
When the sinus membrane is finally lifted, it makes a sort of a cavity area where the bone is now exposed. The oral surgeon will fill this area with the bone graft material. The material should fuse with the existing upper jawbone and add more density to it.
In the final part of the surgery, the oral surgeon would close the incision to the gum. The surgeon will place a collagen membrane to aid with healing. You will be stitched up and send to a recovery room.
Recovering from the sinus lifting surgery is long term. There is an immediate recovery state where the oral surgeon will examine how well your wounds are healing.
Soon after the surgery, once you have woken up from being sedated, you will experience pain and discomfort in your sinus area. You may experience bleeding from your mouth and nose. The surgical area would be swollen. It would take several days from the swelling and inflammation to subside.
Your dentist will recommend medication at this point to aid in healing. You will be instructed to avoid blowing your nose hard for several days following the surgery. Any such forceful move could dislodge the bone graft material in your upper jaw.
About a week after the surgery, you will have to schedule a checkup with your dentist to ensure you are recovering as expected. In the meantime, you should immediately report any severe side effects to your dentist. For example, if the bleeding doesn’t stop after two days, you must inform your dentist right away.
The stiches in the surgical would can come off 7 to 10 days after the procedure. Afterwards, you will have to wait 6 to 9 months for the wounds to completely heal and for the bone graft material to fuse into your upper jawline.
Your dentist would most likely recommend scheduling several visits to occasionally check up on your healing. Once the wounds heal, you would likely not feel any pain. But you should be careful until the graft material is fused.
When you are healed, you will be ready for the implant placement, which is a separate surgical procedure. The dentist can recommend you to wait up to 12 months until the jawbone is ready.
Remember, you will need to schedule additionally recovery time to heal from the wounds of the implant surgery. After the implants are placed, it can take another 4 to 9 months before you can get a dental crown or a bridge to form artificial teeth to replace missing ones.
Sinus lifting surgery is a serious and invasive surgical procedure. Complications are not common, but you should be aware of the following risks regardless:
Inflammation of blood vessels (thrombophlebitis)
Infection of the surgical sites
Injury to facial or oral cavity nerves
Permanent numbness in parts of the mouth from anesthetic used
Injury to adjacent teeth
Bone grafting material not fusing as intended
Allergic or unusual reactions to medications used during surgery
Failure of the jawbone to heal properly afterwards
Certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking, or preexisting diseases, like diabetes, could increase your risk for side effects or complications from the procedure.
As a patient, you should be aware that sinus lifting procedures sometimes fail. That is, the bone graft doesn’t work as intended. If this happens with you, your dentist will recommend another or a different procedure.
Even if the bone grafting is successful, there’s a chance that you won’t be eligible for an getting an implant in the future. For example, if your health deteriorates during the subsequent months, another implant procedure could end up being too risky.
The sinus lifting procedure itself does not cost a lot of money. However, the expense of the procedure will be added to your overall implant procedure, in which case the total costs can be quite hefty.
The costs of the procedure varies by your location, clinic of choice, and other factors like the complicated anatomy that increases surgery time. In the UK, a sinus lifting surgery can cost up to 2,500 pounds. In the US, costs can run up to 5,000 dollars. Costs can double when both sides of your face require sinus lifting.
Obviously, you should spend money to get the best quality care when undergoing a surgery like this. But there could be some areas where you can save money. For example, sinus lifting procedure will cost more in some clinics than others. You should call several clinics in your area, or outside, for cost evaluations before undergoing the procedure.
You can explore options with your insurance provider for getting at least a part payment for the procedure. If sinus lifting is part of getting dental implants, your insurer might deem is solely a cosmetic procedure. At this point, your insurance policy may not cover the cost of the operation.
You can also consider getting the procedure done abroad for a much lower cost. Of course, you would have to choose a country carefully. Not all countries follow the same medical standards. Turkey is generally considered a good option for budget-friendly dental procedures for patients from countries like the US, UK, Germany, or Australia.
Dental care costs in Turkey are much lower compared to the above mentioned countries. However, the standards are not. Turkey is an EU country. Therefore, Turkish dentists are trained according to EU standards. Dental care in Turkey is on par with countries like Germany when it comes to quality. But the costs are lower on the clinical front.
While you can get dirt cheap sinus lifting procedures done in countries like Thailand and India, you would be risking lower care standards in these countries. In Turkey, you will be assured of the best care.
For a serious surgical process like a sinus lifting, you must always consider all options. Cut costs on where it’s possible, like dental clinic charges, but don’t opt for lower-quality materials or care to save a handful of bucks.