Sinus Augmentation: The What, Why, and How Explained

by Rana Baroudi

Dr. Baroudi is a Board Certified Periodontist. She has successfully passed the American Board of Periodontology oral and written examinations covering all phases of periodontal disease, its treatment and dental implants. She is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Periodontology at UCSF where she enjoys teaching and lecturing on a bi-monthly basis.

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In the world of dental implant procedures, having an adequate bone volume for successful implant integration is a key consideration. When the upper jaw lacks this necessary bone volume, sinus augmentation—also known as a sinus lift—provides a dependable remedy. This piece deciphers the intricacies of sinus augmentation, offering insights into its purpose, beneficiaries, and process.

Unraveling Sinus Augmentation

Sinus augmentation, frequently termed a sinus lift, is a surgical technique designed to boost the bone quantity in the upper jaw, specifically around the premolars and molars. The process involves elevating the sinus membrane and introducing bone graft material into the resulting space. Once healed, the newly added bone creates a sturdy base for dental implants.

The Anatomy Behind Sinus Augmentation

To better grasp the concept of sinus augmentation, one must understand the basic anatomy involved. The maxillary sinuses are two pyramid-shaped cavities located right above the posterior (rear) teeth of the upper jaw. They are among the four sets of paranasal sinuses in our skull. When teeth are lost, especially the molars, the floor of the sinus might gravitate downward into the vacant space, reducing the bone height. The proximity of the maxillary sinuses to the upper jaw is what necessitates the sinus lift procedure in the first place.

The Need for Sinus Augmentation

Several scenarios necessitate sinus augmentation. Factors like tooth loss, periodontal disease, and the natural skull anatomy can diminish bone volume, leading to unsuitable conditions for dental implant placement. Sinus augmentation addresses this issue by enhancing bone tissue, facilitating successful implant installation and durability.

Identifying Beneficiaries of Sinus Augmentation

Patients suffering significant bone loss in the upper jaw, particularly at the mouth’s rear, are ideal candidates for sinus augmentation. Additionally, individuals who have experienced tooth loss due to periodontal disease, trauma, or those who have been edentulous (toothless) for an extended period, may need a sinus lift before dental implant placement.

A Guide to the Sinus Augmentation Procedure

Usually carried out by a periodontist or oral surgeon, the sinus augmentation procedure begins with local anesthesia or sedation for patient comfort. The dental expert then makes a minor incision in the gum tissue, uncovers the bone, and creates a tiny window into the sinus cavity.

After the sinus access is secured, the sinus membrane is delicately lifted, and the bone graft material is inserted into the newly formed space. The gum tissue is subsequently stitched back, marking the onset of the healing phase. Over the ensuing months, the bone graft will meld with the existing bone, creating a solid foundation for dental implants.

Types of Bone Graft Materials Used

Various types of bone graft materials can be used in sinus augmentation:

  • Autogenous Bone Grafts: This graft originates from the patient’s body, often from the chin or posterior part of the lower jaw.
  • Allografts: Bone derived from another individual or cadaver, processed to ensure safety.
  • Xenografts: Sourced from animals, usually cows, they’re treated to avoid any potential rejection or disease transmission.
  • Alloplasts: Synthetic, biocompatible materials developed specifically for bone grafting.

The choice of material hinges on the patient’s specific needs, the surgeon’s preference, and the procedure’s extent.

Post-Procedure Care and Recovery

Patients may experience slight swelling and discomfort post sinus augmentation, which can be managed with prescribed medications. As with all surgical interventions, following the post-operative guidance provided by your dental professional is vital for effective healing.

Complete healing and bone integration typically span several months. Once the area is fully healed, your dental professional can commence with the dental implant placement.

Risks and Potential Complications

Like all surgical procedures, sinus augmentation, while offering numerous benefits, isn’t without potential risks:

  • Sinus Membrane Perforation: During the procedure, there’s a possibility of the sinus membrane tearing. If this happens, the surgery might be paused until it heals.
  • Graft Rejection: Rarely, the body may reject the bone graft material, causing the graft to fail.
  • Infection: Proper post-operative care minimizes this risk, but infections can still occasionally arise.

Acknowledging these risks and discussing them with your dentist or surgeon will equip you with a rounded understanding of the procedure.

Alternative Approaches to Boosting Bone Volume

It’s noteworthy to mention that while sinus augmentation remains a top solution for many, other bone preservation and enhancement techniques exist:

  • Ridge Expansion: A procedure where the jawbone ridge is expanded, usually beneficial when the jaw isn’t wide enough for implants.
  • Bone Distraction: A technique involving surgically dividing and gradually separating bone segments to allow new bone growth in between.
  • Socket Preservation: After a tooth extraction, grafting material is placed into the socket to prevent bone loss until an implant is ready for placement.

Evaluating the Benefits of Sinus Augmentation

Sinus augmentation emerges as a potent strategy in dental implantology. By augmenting bone volume in the upper jaw, it enables individuals previously unable to receive dental implants due to insufficient bone to restore their smiles. Thanks to advances in dental technology and methods, sinus augmentation has evolved into a safe and trustworthy procedure, clearing the path for successful, enduring dental implants.

Recent Advances in Sinus Augmentation

Dental science continues to advance, refining existing techniques and introducing innovative methodologies:

  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) & Platelet-Rich Fibrin (PRF): By utilizing the patient’s blood components to produce a concentrated mix of platelets and growth factors, PRP & PRF can expedite bone and tissue healing post-surgery.
  • Use of Piezoelectric Instruments: These ultrasonic instruments have made the procedure more precise, minimizing tissue damage.
  • 3D Imaging: Modern diagnostic tools, such as cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), provide detailed 3D images, allowing dental professionals to meticulously plan and execute the sinus lift procedure.



With the complexities and nuances of sinus augmentation unveiled, potential candidates can approach the procedure with informed confidence. As with any medical intervention, communication with your dental professional is paramount. They will provide personalized advice, ensuring your journey towards dental restoration is smooth and successful.