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What is Sinus Augmentation?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sinuses are cavities within the bone structure of the skull and face. They are air pockets that connect to the nasal passages, and allow for air flow and mucus drainage. A sinus augmentation is a type of surgical procedure that grafts extra bone to the upper jaw. It also lifts up the sinus membrane. Due to this, the procedure is also sometimes called a sinus lift.

As part of the natural aging process, a person’s sinuses can become larger and the bone from the jaw may naturally begin to diminish. This process, known as pneumatization of the para-nasal sinuses, is not a disease but rather a natural occurrence. If a patient who has lost teeth in that area of the jaw decides to get dental implants or false teeth, he will first need to have a sufficient amount of bone in the area. He may undergo a sinus augmentation to allow for the anchoring of the dental implants.

There are four different types of bone material that may be used with this procedure. An autogenous bone graft uses bone from the patient’s own body, such as from the hip, shin, or other parts of the jaw. The patient may also have an allogenic bone graft, which means that the bone is taken from a human cadaver. A xenogenic bone graft uses animal bone, such as bone from a cow. The fourth kind of graft is an alloplastic bone graft, which is done with synthetic, or man-made, material.

To prepare for a sinus augmentation, the surgeon may take x-rays to evaluate the patient’s bone structure. A local anesthesia may be used for pain control, and this injection will numb the affected area. Alternatively, general anesthesia may be used, which will put the patient to sleep. If general anesthesia is used, the patient will need to refrain from eating and drinking for a period of time before the surgery.

A sinus augmentation typically begins with an incision near the molars to expose the bone. The membrane that lines the sinus is then gently raised away from the jaw. Bone graft material is placed into the site. The incision is then closed.

Before the tooth implants can be inserted, the bone graft will need time to harden and mesh with the patient’s natural jaw. This process could take several months, and to up to a year. Patients may ask their surgeon about using a substance called platelet-rich plasma, which are proteins taken from their own blood. This substance may help the bone harden quicker.

While recovering from a sinus augmentation, patients should be careful not to blow their nose or sneeze forcefully. This may cause the bone graft to shift. Patients may notice swelling, as well as bleeding from the nose or mouth. Surgeons can prescribe pain medication to relieve discomfort, and antibiotics to prevent infection.

Before undergoing a sinus augmentation, patients should be aware of the possible risks. These may include puncturing of the sinus membrane, which will require repair. There is also a possibility that the bone graft will fail to integrate with the jaw, in which case the patient may choose to repeat the procedure.

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