It is usually easier to embed dental implants in the bottom jaw than the top, because there often isn't enough bone in the top jaw to accommodate the implant post. The dentist will typically recommend undergoing a sinus lift to make the top jaw more implant friendly but that may not be a good option for everyone. Here's what you need to know about sinus lifts to help you decide if it will work for your oral health needs.
Using Surgery to Increase Bone Height
As noted previously, it's not uncommon for the upper jaw to be too thin to accommodate an implant post. Alternatively, sometimes the sinuses descend too far below the nasal cavity for implants to be installed safely (e.g. there's a risk the implant will puncture the nasal wall, leading to infections). In either case, the dentist may refer the patient to an oral surgeon who will perform a sinus lift that involves moving the sinus membrane upward a bit. Afterwards, the surgeon or dentist will draft donor material onto the jaw to build it up or install the dental implants if there's already enough bone to support them.
Generally, sinus lifts are performed without incident. The procedure will not affect your voice or breathing. In fact, the oral surgeon may take the opportunity to correct nasal problems that may be causing other issues, such as snoring, at the same time—with your prior permission of course. The area may be swollen and tender for a few days after the procedure, but that is to be expected.
In rare cases, though, complications can develop. For instance, the surgical site may become infected or the skin under your eye may darken due to damage to the blood vessels in the area. In worse cases, the sinus may get punctured during the surgery. The oral surgeon will work with you and your dentist to reduce your risk of complications.
Determining If a Sinus Lift Is Right for You
A sinus lift can be a great way to restore missing teeth, but it may not be the right procedure for your needs. First, sinus lifts can add delays to the tooth restoration process. That's because it can take up to nine months for donor bone to fully integrate into the jaw, though the average is four. If you're looking for an immediate fix to your oral woes, this may not be a good option for you.
Since the most common reason a sinus lift is called for is to build up thin jaw bone, you may want to avoid this procedure if you have a condition or take medication that negatively affects bone growth. For instance, your dentist may find dental implants aren't right for you if you have osteoporosis, a condition characterized by severely reduced bone density. The concern here is that the donor bone won't adequately integrate and any dental implants placed in the treated area will fail. There may be ways around this issue, so it's best to work closely with your healthcare and dental care providers to uncover workable solutions.
Another thing that may impact your decision to get a sinus lift is the cost. The average cost of surgery for one side of the mouth is $1,600 to $2,400, so you would pay up to $4,800 to do lift both sinuses. This is on top of the cost to place the dental implants. Since the sinus lift is done so you can have a cosmetic procedure performed (i.e. placement of dental implants), your dental insurance may not pay the price for it. However, many oral surgeons and dentists do offer financing options, so you still may be able to drum up the money to pay for the procedure.
For more information about sinus lifts or suggestions about alternative dental implant options for your upper jaw, contact either a oral surgeon or a cosmetic dentist at centers like the Central PA Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons LLC.