Last year, I was involved in a bicycle accident. Although I was wearing my helmet, I did hit my cheek against a curb, and one of my upper teeth was knocked out. I had other, more serious injuries, so the paramedics didn’t notice that the tooth was gone until it was too late to try to find it.
I’ve fully recovered now, and I feel like I have the energy to get my tooth replaced. I have done a bit of research online, and I have decided that I’d rather get a dental implant than a bridge, because the two teeth on either side of my lost one are in perfect shape. I also looked at who the best dentist might be, and I thought I had chosen a good one.
I went in for my initial exam, and my dentist did a 3D CT scan, and then told me that we’d need to do a sinus lift procedure before we could place the implant. I’m wondering if you can help me figure out what is going on here. I don’t mean to seem impatient, but I feel like this is just another procedure I have to go through, and I’ve never even heard of it before. I’m thinking about just getting a new dentist at this point because I want my life back. Do you think I should just go with a bridge instead?
Jacob in Florida
It’s good that you’re asking about the sinus lift procedure, and it’s completely understandable that you would want to get your life back after what seems like a long healing process. The good news here is that from what you said about your dentist, you are probably in capable hands. Of course it is not possible to know without checking her credentials, but from what you say about her process, it seems you’re on the right track. So you don’t need to worry about starting from scratch or going with a choice you didn’t really want in the first place.
The dental implant procedure is a very precise diagnostic and treatment set. Your dentist needs to know exactly how much bone there is present at the implant site. In addition, there are blood vessels and nerve fibers to avoid. And with an upper implant, because the bone that separates the mouth from the sinus cavity is usually pretty thin, she needs to ensure both that there is enough bone present to securely anchor the implant and that the implant doesn’t impinge on the sinus cavity.
The only way to visualize all these structures is with the use of three-dimensional computer tomography, or the 3D CT scan you mentioned. This technology allows your dentist to see that, as in your case, there may not be enough bone between the teeth and the sinus. If your dentist was trying to rely on a two-dimensional x-ray to complete her digital implant planning, it could be a signal that she is taking shortcuts that can lead to implant failure.
The sinus lift she is recommending doesn’t just lift up the sinus cavity, it includes a bone graft to develop more bone material, so your implant will be fully supported. During a surgical procedure, the sinus membrane will be moved up so a bone graft can be placed on top of your available bone. During the healing process, your body will integrate the new bone material by bring more bone-building minerals to the site, and within a few months, you’ll be ready to receive your dental implant.
Again, it is understandable that you may want a shorter process, but it sounds like you made your choice to go with a dental implant vs. a bridge based on good information. Here’s to a good solution that will help you heal even further.
This Blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey of Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta.