According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, approximately 3 million people in the U.S. already have dental implants. Since they are the gold standard for tooth replacement, many people choose dental implants over dentures to comfortably eat, chew, and speak. Without the use of a dental implant, tooth loss can cause structural damage to the mouth and jaw.
Those who have lost a tooth from the upper row may have significant bone loss. Without enough bone in the upper jaw, it is possible for dental implant to stick up into the maxillary sinus. This can cause issues with the sinuses.
Here’s what you need to know about dental implants and sinus infections.
Sinusitis and Dental Implants
Sinusitis occurs when the tissue lining the sinuses becomes inflamed. This frequently causes a sinus blockage and creates germ-producing fluid. If an infection occurs within the sinuses, individuals may experience facial pain, loss of smell, and dental pain. While sinusitis can occur from colds, nasal polyps, and immune system deficiencies, it can also happen as a result of dental implants.
Patients who do not have a sinus lift or bone graft before getting their dental implants have an increased risk of developing sinusitis after surgery, particularly if the implant pokes through the jaw into the sinus cavity. A sinus lift creates stronger bone for the dental implant. Patients who have had a history of sinus problems or infections need to be particularly cautious about receiving dental implants without a bone graft or sinus lift.
The size and position of the sinuses can make it more likely that the implant will poke through into the sinus cavity. In addition to their placement, many people naturally have less bone in the upper jaw. This is true even if they haven’t lost bone due to reabsorption or periodontal disease.
Sinus issues are not always easy to identify. Those who have dental implants or want to get them are advised to have a dental expert examine the area for any problems. A dentist can use tools such as an X-ray machine or a 3D scanner to help diagnose the issue.
Are the Teeth and Sinuses Connected?
Everyone has sinus cavities located in the skull. Sinuses vary in size, with the largest being the maxillary sinuses, located behind the cheeks and just above the jaw. Although the reason people have sinuses isn’t fully understood, they seem to play a role in humidifying the air we breathe. Sinuses may also help people speak.
The maxillary sinuses are located near the upper teeth. If you press on the lower portion of your cheekbones, it may be difficult to tell where the teeth end and the cheekbones begin. This is because the sinus cavity is a hollow space that is very close to the roots of the teeth. When the maxillary sinuses become inflamed, this often creates painful pressure against the mouth. This is typically felt on both the right and left sides of the back molars.
Each breath of air directly passes through the nose and sinuses. If the sinuses are infected or inflamed, this can cause a dull, but persistent pain in the mouth.
Not only do the sinuses impact the teeth, but the teeth also affect the sinuses. If tooth roots become infected or inflamed, this will frequently extend into the sinuses. Long-standing infections like a dental abscess can cause pain to radiate from the jaw to other areas including the neck and head.
Sinus toothaches can be felt near the upper molars. When mucus builds in the sinuses, pressure is placed on the nerves found in the roots of the upper teeth. If sinus issues are caused by a tooth abscess, symptoms can range from a runny nose to reddened eyes.
Serious sinus infections may require surgery for some of these symptoms. Dangerous health concerns stemming from untreated or severe sinus infections can include difficulty breathing and chronic swelling. In certain cases, the sinuses can also cause problems for those who are interested in getting a dental implant.
What is a Sinus Lift?
A type of sinus surgery known as a sinus lift is often performed before a person gets dental implants. A sinus lift is a form of bone grafting that is designed to strengthen the jaw. As its name suggests, the dentist lifts the sinus tissue away during the surgery so that there is space for them to insert the bone graft.
A bone graft can come from your own body, a donor, or it can even be synthetic. In our practice, the use of growth factors from the patient’s own plasma is routine in all sinus lift surgeries to enhance the rate of healing as well as the end result. How much bone a dentist places in the area depends on how thick the bone is to begin with, but usually a few millimeters of bone is positioned in the area.
There’s usually a waiting period between a sinus lift surgery and the positioning of dental implants, although a significant number of cases can be done simultaneously. The waiting period gives the grafted bone time to fully mesh with the existing bone. This helps bond both the tissue and jaw.
Although there are often several months between the sinus lift surgery and the implant, in some cases it is possible for a person to have both at the same time. In those cases, a patient needs to already have a sufficient amount of bone in the jaw to support an implant while the grafted bone fuses in place.
Augmenting the sinus is frequently necessary for dental implants. This type of surgery is used for people of all ages and is not affected by oral hygiene.
How Common are Sinus Problems After Dental Work?
Sinus problems rarely occur after dental work. Bone grafts used before an implant are a successful way to minimize the likelihood of infections and inflammation. Complications can arise if post-care instructions are not followed, but this is largely preventable.
In the case of a problematic implant, removing the implant allows a dentist to start fresh with the patient. It might be that not enough (or any) bone was grafted into place before the first implant surgery.
After removing the affected implant, a dentist can perform a bone graft or sinus lift. Once the grafted bone is firmly in place, a new implant can be positioned. This should solve the patient’s problems. Preventing sinus problems is often easier than fixing them after the fact. If you’re missing a tooth in your upper arch and are concerned about how the placement of an implant would affect your sinuses, contact Dr. John Paul Gallardo in Miami, Florida. Our dental specialists can walk you through all the options to help you decide which course of action is best for you. Our dental professionals’ expertise can not only restore your smile but also provide long-lasting and comfortable results. To schedule an appointment, call 305-547-8687 today.