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Updated on September 14, 2022

Sinus Lift - Procedure, Recovery, Costs & Risks

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What is a Sinus Lift (Augmentation)?

A sinus lift (also known as a sinus augmentation or sinus floor elevation) is a surgical procedure that makes it possible to place dental implants. It involves “lifting” the sinus membrane to make more room for the implants.

Dental implants are designed to integrate with the surrounding bone. But sometimes, people don’t have enough bone tissue in their upper jaw to support an implant.

A sinus lift creates enough space between the sinus and implants. This allows dental implants to have the support they need from the surrounding bone and prevent sinus complications.

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When is a Sinus Lift Beneficial? 

A sinus lift is indicated when the amount of bone tissue is inadequate to handle an implant. Some reasons you may not have enough upper jaw bone tissue include:

  • Age (getting older can cause a degree of bone loss and enlarged, or pneumatized, sinuses)
  • Periodontal disease, which can cause bone loss
  • You lost the original tooth some time ago, and the surrounding bone has shrunk
  • You have a naturally small jaw or large sinus cavity

Depending on how severe the bone loss is and how many implants you need, you may not require a sinus lift. If you’re planning on getting one or more implants, your oral surgeon or periodontist will determine if you need this procedure.

Sinus Augmentation Procedure

There are several techniques for sinus augmentation. They’re similar in preparation, but the surgical methods differ. Some are designed to be minimally invasive.

After you’re given anesthesia and the sinus floor is lifted, the bone graft will be placed. Depending on the technique used, implants may be placed in the same session. But in most cases, you’ll be given time to recover before implants are placed.

Sinus lifts are sometimes provided without bone grafts. This allows natural bone tissue to grow in the space created between your upper jaw and sinus membrane.

Your dentist or oral surgeon will tell you about the procedure. You can ask them questions to learn more about the specific technique they’ll be using.

Preparation

If you’re receiving a bone graft, you won’t be given a sinus lift until the bone tissue is made available. This tissue may come from a number of sources, including:

  • Your own body (in this case, you’ll need surgery to remove this small amount of bone from another part of your mouth)
  • A cadaver
  • An animal, such as a cow
  • Synthetic material that can mimic bone

Once the bone graft has been sourced (or if you don’t need one), you’ll be able to move on to the main procedure.

Before surgery, you’ll be provided with local anesthesia to numb the area around your upper jaw. If both sides are getting a sinus lift, you’ll be given injections on both sides.

Sinus lifts don’t generally require general anesthesia, but you may feel more comfortable if you’re sedated. You can ask for IV sedation or nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for a sinus lift, which will help relax you during the procedure.

Surgery

Once the area is thoroughly numb (and any other anesthesia has been provided), your oral surgeon or other specialist can begin performing the surgery. Here are the main steps:

  1. They’ll start by making an incision in your gum tissue to access the underlying jawbone.
  2. Once they’ve exposed the bone, they’ll cut a small window into it. From there, they can lift your sinus membrane.
  3. They’ll insert the new bone tissue. If you get implants placed in the same session, they’ll be put in after this step.
  4. Once the surgery is complete, the incision will be sutured shut.

The specific location and nature of the incision and other steps will differ depending on the technique used. Generally, the procedure takes two hours.

If you aren’t receiving implants during the same session, they won’t be placed until the site has fully healed. This may take several months.

Recovery

After sinus lift surgery, you may feel some discomfort as the anesthesia wears off. Your nose and sinuses may also be sensitive for a little while. You may notice:

  • Swelling
  • Minor bleeding in your mouth or nose
  • Lingering pain or discomfort
  • Congestion
  • Dry nose and sinuses

Your oral surgeon will give you medications to relieve these symptoms, including a nasal spray to keep your sinus cavity moist. For the first few days, they may recommend that you:

  • Stick to a liquid diet
  • Keep your head elevated
  • Use ice packs to help with swelling and pain
  • Avoid blowing your nose or sneezing to avoid dislodging the bone graft or sutures
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco to allow for speedy healing without complications

You’ll probably also be prescribed an antibiotic and an antimicrobial mouthwash (such as chlorhexidine) to prevent possible infections during recovery.

After about 7 to 10 days, you’ll have a follow-up visit to check how you’re healing. Any sutures that remain may be removed at this point.

It may take as long as six months to fully recover from a sinus lift, but you’ll be able to resume normal activities well before then. You may have multiple follow-up appointments during this time to monitor the healing process.

How Much Does a Sinus Lift Cost?

A sinus lift can cost between $1,500 and $2,500 per side, or between $3,000 and $5,000 if both sides require the procedure.

Dental insurance may cover a portion of the cost, as it’s an implant-related procedure. However, it’s unlikely that it will cover the full cost.

Is a Sinus Lift Right for You?

A sinus lift isn’t always necessary for pre-implant bone grafts. If you’re only getting a single tooth replaced, or if the degree of bone loss isn’t severe, you may not need a sinus lift.

It’s also possible that you don’t have any significant bone loss in the back part of your upper jaw. In this case, you may not need a bone graft or sinus lift. 

Talk to your dentist, oral surgeon, periodontist, or prosthodontist about what you need for successful implant placement.

Benefits

A sinus lift provides sufficient space between the sinuses and dental implants, increasing the chances of success.

Implants are meant to be permanent and durable, but they need adequate support from the surrounding bone. Depending on your situation, a sinus lift may be necessary to achieve this.

Risks 

There are three main risks involved in sinus augmentation surgery:

  • The accidental tearing or perforation of the sinus membrane. This can be patched up or left to heal on its own.
  • A sinus or nearby infection. You’ll be provided antibiotics and other medications to help prevent this.
  • In rare cases, the displacement of the implant into the sinus cavity. If this happens, you’ll need to have the implant removed as soon as possible. 

Alternatives

If you’re considered a candidate for a sinus lift but don’t want one, the main other option would be a short implant (less than 8 millimeters in length).

Your oral surgeon may be able to use short implants to avoid the need for a sinus lift, possibly inserting one or more of them at an angle. The new crowns that go over the implants would be fitted as needed.

Depending on your situation, you could use another method to replace your lost teeth, such as a dental bridge.

Summary

A sinus lift, sinus augmentation, or sinus floor elevation is a common procedure to prepare someone for dental implants. Dental implants require a certain amount of bone for support, and surgically “lifting” the sinus floor makes more room for new bone to be grafted.

Some people who get dental implants have suffered severe bone loss, which makes them good candidates for this procedure. In other cases, a bone graft may be able to be performed without a sinus lift.

If you’re planning to get one or more dental implants, or if you have any concerns about bone grafting or a sinus lift, talk to your oral surgeon or periodontist. They can explain whether you need the procedure, why you need it, and how it will benefit you.

9 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 14, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Hegde, Rakshith et al. “Maxillary sinus augmentation using sinus membrane elevation without grafts - A Systematic Review.” Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society vol. 16,4 : 317-322.
  3. Kumar, Mamit et al. “Direct Maxillary Sinus Floor Augmentation for Simultaneous Dental Implant Placement.” Annals of maxillofacial surgery vol. 8,2 : 188-192.
  4. Thor, Andreas et al. "Bone Formation at the Maxillary Sinus Floor Following Simultaneous Elevation of the Mucosal Lining and Implant Installation Without Graft Material: An Evaluation of 20 Patients Treated With 44 Astra Tech Implants." Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery vol. 65,7, Supplement : 64-72.
  5. Tsai, Chia-Fang et al. "Comparison of 4 sinus augmentation techniques for implant placement with residual alveolar bone height ≤3 mm." Medicine vol. 99,46 : e23180.
  6. Lie, S.A.N. et al. “Implant survival after graftless sinus floor augmentation in highly atrophic maxillae: a randomized controlled trial in a split mouth study.” International Journal of Implant Dentistry vol. 7,107 .
  7. Ragucci, G.M. et al. “Influence of exposing dental implants into the sinus cavity on survival and complications rate: a systematic review.” International Journal of Implant Dentistry vol. 5,6 .
  8. Tepper, Gabor and Christian Jarry. "Re-evaluating sinus lifting as a first choice." European Journal for Dental Implantologists vol. 17,2/21 : 56-59.
  9. How Much Does a Sinus Lift Cost?” CostHelper Health.
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