The maxillary sinus is a cavity located within the cheek bone. It is a pyramid shaped, growing space with a membrane lining the sinus called the Schneider Membrane. The ends of the roots of the upper back teeth are close to the maxillary sinus and in some cases, even inside of it.

The maxillary sinus helps in moisturizing and heating up the air when breathing, also playing an important role in vocal resonance and diminishing the weight of the head.

A baby’s maxillary sinus is almost nonexistent; as opposed to an elder person whose sinus is expected to be large. The maxillary sinus’ volume in an adult is 15mL, growing an average of 2mm per year. The natural process of sinus enlargement is called pneumatization.

Who needs a Sinus Lift?

After losing one or more teeth in the upper jaw, the maxillary sinus grows in size even further from the normal limits. This is because the bone in the sockets reabsorbs itself when there are no longer teeth to support, but implants need bone to support them.

X-rays allow the visualization of the remaining bone’s thickness. A minimum of 5mm is required to consider placing dental implants; otherwise, the case may be studied for getting a maxillary sinus lift and then rehabilitating with implants.

The procedure

A sinus lift procedure consists in placing bone on the thin lower wall of the sinus to increase its thickness.  To make room for the bone, the sinus membrane must be moved upward, or “lifted.”  Afterwards dental implants can attach to it and become stable.

A surgery is necessary to place the bone graft, usually by a specialist, either an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a periodontist.  Among the types of bone for grafting and depending on the patient’s clinical conditions, synthetic or autologous bone are commonly chosen, and sometimes a mixture of them.  Autologous refers to the patient’s own bone extracted from the hip bone or another part of the jaw.  Post-surgery discomfort is usually minimal.

After the bone grafting surgery, 6 to 8 months are given to allow healing and osseointegration of the graft with natural bone.  If there is still insufficient bone once the membrane has healed, the sinus lift can be redone.  A healed membrane will usually be thicker and stronger, meaning a second attempt at a sinus lift is likely to be successful.

What other options do I have?

If maxillary sinus lift or dental implant surgery cannot be performed, the treatments of choice are partial or total dentures.

The mouth is a dynamic system; therefore it is important to not leave edentulous (no teeth) areas untreated because the lack of chewing function and support can cause bone and tissue loss and further problems, and worsen the oral conditions.

If you are interested in sinus lift in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.