Frequently Asked Questions About Sinus Lift Surgery

If your dentist says you need sinus lift surgery before you can get dental implants, you probably have a lot of questions. For one, what do your sinuses have to do with your teeth? The answer to that one is easy: the maxillary sinus -- one of the hollow cavities in your skull -- is very close to the back of your upper jaw, making it difficult to place dental implants in this area. If you decide to go ahead with the surgery, here is what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure.

What are some reasons sinus lift surgery is performed?

The success of a dental implant depends on whether you have enough bone available to support the implant. If you don't have enough bone, your dentist may recommend sinus lift surgery to make room for a bone graft. This procedure is also used to raise the sinus floor in people who have large sinuses that might interfere with implant surgery. Raising the sinus floor gives the dentist more room to work, increasing the chances of success with a dental implant. 

Will I have to take any special medications?

Your surgeon may ask you to take several medications prior to having sinus lift surgery. Some dentists have their patients take antibiotics prior to surgery to reduce the risk of infection. You may also have to take a decongestant or oral steroid to help reduce swelling. Be sure to let your dentist know if you have any allergies or medical conditions that would preclude you from taking the prescribed medications.

How should I prepare for the surgery?

If you are having general anesthesia or sedation, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before your procedure. Ask your dentist if you should take any medications before the surgery or wait until the procedure is over. If you take aspirin or another type of blood thinner, you may have to stop taking the drug several days before surgery to reduce the risk of excessive bleeding.

Will I feel any pain during the procedure?

You should not feel any pain during the procedure, although you may feel some pressure if you choose laughing gas or a local anesthetic. If you choose general anesthesia, you will not be able to feel anything during the procedure because you will be asleep. 

What happens during a sinus lift?

During the procedure, your dentist will expose the bone underneath where your back teeth used to be. After opening a small window in the bone, the surgeon will push up the membrane covering your sinus. Once the membrane has been pushed away from the jaw, the extra space is filled with granules of bone-graft material. Your dentist will stitch the opening and give it several months to heal before attempting to place a dental implant.

What should I expect following sinus lift surgery?

It is not unusual to experience some pain, bleeding, or swelling after this type of surgery. You should avoid blowing your nose, drinking through a straw, smoking cigarettes, and chewing tobacco for approximately one week following a sinus lift. If you feel the need to sneeze, don't try to hold it in, or you run the risk of damaging the sinus. Always check with your dentist if you have any concerns about the healing process.

Sinus lift surgery is sometimes a necessary step in the process of restoring your smile with dental implants. Fortunately, implant dentistry has advanced by leaps and bounds, giving you a high chance of success if you follow your dentist's instructions.