Sinus lift and ridge expansion: preparing for dental implants

Some patients that are considering dental implants to restore their smile may discover they have insufficient bone to support the procedure, often due to deterioration.

However, these patients can receive implants by preparing their mouths through appropriate treatment. Sinus lifts and ridge expansions are two popular options for promoting the bone growth needed for implants.

Causes of bone loss

Bone growth is stimulated by chewing, so missing a tooth for an extended period of time can result in bone loss. Another cause of bone loss is periodontal (gum) disease that can lead to bacteria eating away at periodontal ligaments (tissue connecting the tooth and jawbone) and the jawbone itself.

What is a sinus lift?

Whether caused by bone loss, genetics or age, it’s possible for a patient’s maxillary sinus to be too close to the upper jaw. This situation can be rectified using a procedure called a sinus lift.

The procedure includes the following steps:

  1. The oral surgeon cuts the gum tissue to expose the bone.
  2. A small opening is created in the bone, allowing access to the sinus membrane that separates the sinus from the jaw.
  3. The sinus membrane is carefully detached and pushed up from the jawbone.
  4. Several millimeters of bone-graft material is packed into the new space.
  5. The incision is closed with stitches, allowing the body time to join the grafted material to the jaw and regenerate new bone.

Four to nine months later, the patient is ready for dental implants.

What is a ridge expansion?

Bone atrophy can result in a narrow or shallow jawbone. The ridge expansion technique can widen and heighten the bone in preparation for future implants. Following the procedure, the patient wears a temporary prosthesis until the bone is strong enough to accept the implant.