Nowadays, there are different ways to get dental implants, even if you have less than the required bone mass. When it comes to having implants placed in the upper jaw, specifically towards the back of the mouth, there are two main options that can allow for the placement of dental implants. One option is to have a sinus lift, while the other option is to have zygomatic dental implants placed.
Many dental implants placed in the upper jaw towards the back of the mouth will require one of these treatments. This is because the bone above the upper molars and premolars is often soft, hollow, and can even have part of the sinus cavity draping through it. Since the bone is soft and hollow, it does not make a good foundation for dental implants. Furthermore, the sinus cavity must also be taken into consideration when placing dental implants in this area. For these two reasons, either a sinus lift must be performed or zygomatic implants must be used.
At this point, you’re probably wondering which option is the best choice. While both options allow for dental implant placement and offer similar long term success, they offer very different ways of achieving this goal. In most cases, either option is a great choice, however there are certain cases where one option may have an advantage over the other. Let’s take a look at just how these options compare to one another.
A sinus lift is a procedure that adds bone material to the upper jaw in order to lift the sinus cavity and allow for the safe placement of dental implants. When there is not enough bone in the upper jaw, dental implants cannot be safely placed because there is a high risk of damaging the sinus cavity. Additionally, a lack of proper bone mass also means that there is not enough bone for the implant to anchor itself, which can cause implant failure. Basically, sinus lifts work by thickening the bone that lies between the mouth and sinus cavity so that dental implants can be placed without damage and have enough bone to use as an anchor point.
Sinus lifts are ideal when:
- Having a single dental implant placed
- Preserving existing teeth
- There is a lack of space and the inner bridge needs to be thinner
- Placing all-on-four implants (multiple implants on each side)
However, a sinus lift is performed as an additional procedure before having dental implants placed. After a sinus lift has been performed, you will need to wait approximately 4-12 months for the area to heal before being able to have dental implants placed. This unfortunately means that the entire process of getting dental implants is extended.
Zygomatic implants are specially designed to be implanted into the zygomatic bones of the face, rather than in the jawbones. The zygomatic bones are the hard cheekbones that sit just underneath the eyes. Zygomatic implants are placed by going through the sinuses to reach the zygomatic bones. They use an arch form known as “cross arch splinting” which helps the implants support one another instead of relying solely on the bone for support. Because of this, zygomatic implants cannot be used to replace a single tooth, as is the case with sinus lifts. Instead, zygomatic implants are only used when replacing a full set of upper teeth. Zygomatic implants also allow for immediate load all-on-four implants. This means that in as little as one procedure patients can leave with a new set of teeth.
As you can see, both options offer very different ways to use dental implants to replace missing teeth. While this article provides a brief comparison of these two methods, only a consultation with an experienced implant dentist can help you to decide which option will work best for you. There are several factors that must be considered when deciding between the two options, which is why it is recommended to speak with an implant specialist.
Irfan Atcha, DDS, DICOI, DADIA at New Teeth Chicago Dental in Chicago, Illinois is a board-certified general dentist and a nationally recognized expert in dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, and sedation dentistry.