What Is Sinus Lift Surgery And How Painful Is It?

You are likely here because your dentist just told you that you need Sinus Lift Surgery and you are panicking. It sounds scary, painful, and you’re not sure if you really want to go along with it.

This article has been written to hopefully alleviate your concerns. Sinus lift surgery has been around since 1975 and has been performed thousands of times all over the world. Just a little bit of research will help you understand why you need the surgery and how beneficial it will be for you.

What is Sinus Lift Surgery?

Sinus Lift Surgery is known by several names. The correct medical term is maxillary sinus floor augmentation. It is also known as sinus augmentation or sinus graft.

Sinus lift surgery is done to increase the amount of bone in the upper jaw to facilitate the placing of dental implants. The upper jaw is known as the posterior maxilla hence the name maxillary sinus floor augmentation.

The procedure requires the use of a bone graft that will come from either yourself (somewhere elsewhere in your body), cadaver bone, or even synthetic bone.

Here is the basic process for the procedure:

  • The patient is sedated with a combination of medicine that involves both local anesthesia and (possibly) a general anesthetic. This is done at the discretion of the dentist/oral surgeon and depends on how involved the procedure may be.
  • Next the surgeon will begin the procedure by cutting away at the gum tissue where your missing teeth used to be. This cut will extend until the jawbone is reached.
  • Once the jawbone is exposed, the doctor will open a small area into the bone through which they can “gently” push on the membrane of the sinuses.
  • The piece of bone that was cut is pushed into the sinus cavity space and the empty area behind it in the jaw is filled in with the bone grafting material.
  • At this point the incision is closed with sutures and the patient can be awakened.

What Happens After The Surgery?

You should be able to go home shortly after the procedure. The surgeon is going to want you to have someone else drive you home and be able to watch you through that day to make sure you don’t have any immediate complications.

You’ll likely go home with the following:

  • Saline nasal spray to keep your nose moist
  • Medicine to prevent nasal congestion and swelling
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain medicine
  • Likely an antibacterial mouthwash to also help prevent infection

Most surgeons will want you to rest for the remainder of the day in bed with an ice pack on the area. Your doctor will provide more complete instructions on when he/she feels it’s okay to resume normal activities.

Roughly 7-10 days following your surgery you will return to your doctor for a recheck and removal of the stitches. After that, you will likely return again down the road for xrays to assess how the area is healing inside.

For most patients, it will take at least 5-6 months before the bone graft has properly set and healed enough that you can then place dental implants.

When Is Sinus Lift Surgery Needed?

There are many reasons why a person would need to increase the bone volume of their upper jaw and have to undergo sinus lift surgery:

  • Increase Success Rate Of Dental Implants

As mentioned before, it is often done before dental implants are inserted. This is the most common reason for which sinus lift surgery is performed. The surgery prepares the area for future dental implantation. If the maxillary sinus is too close to where dental implants are going to be inserted then sinus lift surgery is needed. This surgery is done to protect your sinus while making space for dental implants.

  • Stabilize Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is another reason you may need to get sinus lift surgery. There is a possibility that tooth decay will damage your jawbone. If you let a rotted tooth stay in your mouth for an extended period, the bone might also decay. This will cause the jawbone to become weak. Thus, reinforcement would be needed and sinus lift surgery is an excellent way to get this done.

  • Prevent Your Jawbone From Collapsing

Also, as previously mentioned, a missing tooth causes your jawbone to collapse. Your teeth help to support your jawbone so when a tooth is missing the support is lost. The loss of a tooth will affect the space between your jawbone and your sinus.

A lowered sinus is not only caused by the loss of a tooth. It may also be the result of trauma or periodontal disease. So, if you have experienced any of these and need dental implants there is a strong possibility that you will need sinus lift surgery. How painful is it to have sinus lift surgery?

How Much Does Sinus Lift Surgery Cost?

It always depends on the doctor you visit, how good your insurance is, and how extensive of a lift that you need. A general guide is that it can cost anywhere from $1,500 from a basic procedure that involves one visit and one tooth to over $5,000 if you require a more involved procedure.

But Just How Painful Is It To Have Sinus Lift Surgery??

Pain is often a concern for people who have to get any surgical procedure done and sinus lift surgery is no different. You may have spoken to someone who had this surgery many years ago and they told you it is painful.

This might have left you second-guessing your surgery. There is absolutely no reason to worry. That is a thing of the past and sinus lifts have come a long way. The procedure may be uncomfortable but it is not necessarily painful. There are minimally invasive techniques now (as shown in the above video) that are far less painful than in years past.

Once everything is done properly, you should not feel any pain during the surgery. However, it’s normal to experience some level of discomfort after the procedure as this is an invasive surgery.

One of the major downsides to the surgery is the swelling and bruising it causes to your face. The healing time is a lengthy and unpleasant experience but it is not particularly painful. The pain is not usually severe but it may last for about one week to ten days.

However, if you require a very extensive procedure these issues can be quite vexing.

If you require “packing” (placing of large gauze in your nostrils/sinuses to prevent excessive bleeding, the removal of the packing can be quite uncomfortable per this video:

The good thing is new sinus lift procedures that are non-invasive are being developed. This makes the surgery less painful. Sinus lift surgery can now be done as a minimally invasive procedure with less trauma, thus, less pain and faster healing time.

Nevertheless, whether it is done as a closed or opened surgery you will be placed under anesthesia so you will not feel any pain during the surgery. So, the answer to the question is, yes it can be painful but the pain is only felt after the surgery and is neither severe nor unbearable.

What Are The Potential Risks Of Sinus Lift Surgery?

1)​ Puncturing The Sinus Membrane

Several complications can happen after you have had sinus lift surgery. The most likely risk is puncturing the Schneiderian membrane.

During a sinus lift surgery, it is impossible to see the sinus. Thus the surgery is done blindly so there is a risk of accidentally damaging this membrane. When this happens it may lead to other issues. There is a possibility of developing sinusitis.

A punctured sinus membrane may also cause the maxillary sinus and oral cavity to communicate abnormally. Other complications include, the nose shedding graft particles or nose bleed.

2)​ Inadequate stability for dental implant

Another risk of sinus lift surgery is inadequate stability. If the procedure is not done properly it can affect the stability of the dental implant. For the implant to be successfully inserted and last, the height and width of the bone must be sufficient.

If the sinus lift surgery is not properly done the bone volume may not be enough to accommodate the dental implant. This will prevent the implant from having adequate stability.

3)​ Infection

An infection is the most common complication associated with surgical procedures. The site where the operation was done can become infected for various reasons. This may be due to bad oral hygiene or the sinus being diseased. Also, the surface of the implant or the graft material may be contaminated. Keen attention must be given by both medical professionals and patients to avoid infections.

It’s important to reduce bacterial presence before doing a sinus lift surgery. The area where the surgery will be done and everything that will be used must be thoroughly inspected. Also, antibiotics and antiseptic mouthwash should be used after the surgery to reduce the chances of a bacterial infection.

Other possible risks of sinus lift surgery are Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), implant displacement into your sinus cavity, and implant loss. Also, hemorrhaging, most bleed, hematoma and a blocked nose are possible complications.


When Do I Need To Worry About Complication After This Surgery?

Like any other surgical procedure, sinus lift surgery has its complications. However, when you experience certain complications you should contact your surgeon:

  • You Sneeze Out Graft Particles
  • Abnormal Air or Liquid Flow Between Your Nose And Your Mouth
  • Consistent congestion in one or both nostrils
  • Swelling in your face that worsens after the 3rd post-op day
  • Bleeding out of your nostrils that is more than the occasional drop

Your surgeon will give you an emergency number to call if you are experiencing any of these complications.

All in all, a sinus lift surgery is needed to increase bone volume to accommodate dental implants. This bone may collapse due to tooth loss or decay, or trauma. The procedure is not necessarily painful but it does have its downsides. If you experience certain complications like increased swelling, the expulsion of grafts from the nose, or congestion, you should contact your surgeon.