In toddlers and preschoolers, chubby cheeks are so adorable. But, part of getting older is getting a leaner, more sculpted face, and many people lose fullness in their cheeks in their teens and early 20s. Some people, though are genetically disposed to having full cheeks throughout their lives.
While cute, pinchable cheeks might be great when you’re a baby, pretty much no adult wants them. Surgery to remove the underlying fat from the cheeks can be an option for the right patient. Read on to find out if you’re a good candidate for buccal fat removal and what the procedure involves.
Buccal Fat and Chubby Cheeks
Buccal fat isn’t like other fat. It’s located between the muscles of the cheek and can’t be removed successfully using liposuction. The buccal fat pads are responsible for giving the cheeks a “chipmunk cheek” appearance, bulging and prominent, in some people. Usually, the size of the fat pads diminishes with age. Some people might develop a leaner, more shapely face by their teens, but others might still have prominent, chipmunk cheeks into their 30s, 40s or even older.
Buccal Fat Removal
Buccal fat removal is a relatively simple and straightforward procedure. During it, the surgeon makes an incision on the inside of the cheeks, then gently manipulates the fat pads through the muscle and out of the mouth. A surgeon can use either local anesthesia or a general anesthetic during the procedure. The entire process typically takes no more than 30 minutes.
One of the benefits of buccal fat removal, along with slimming down the face, is that there is no visible scarring from it. Since the incisions are inside the mouth, any scars that form will also be inside the mouth.
Many patients are able to return to their regular activities pretty much right after the buccal fat removal surgery. It’s fairly common for people to return to work the day after their surgery.
Who is a Good Candidate for Buccal Fat Removal?
Not everyone is a good candidate for buccal fat removal. It’s important for a patient and a surgeon to distinguish between having some chubbiness in the cheeks that will fade on its own with time and dietary changes and having chubbiness that is connected to prominent buccal fat pads.
Since it’s not uncommon for 20-somethings to have chubby cheeks, no matter how much they wish for sculpted, more refined faces with prominent cheekbones, the procedure is often recommended for older patients, usually starting in their 30s. If the fat is removed from the face too early, it’s possible that a person will end up with a bony, older looking face later on, which many people want to avoid.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about what buccal fat removal can and can’t do. While it can give you a leaner face, it won’t necessarily make you look like a celebrity or model. Your surgeon can provide further guidance concerning what changes you can expect to see after the surgery.
Finally, the right candidate for the surgery is a person who is in good health. There is a small risk for complications, such as bleeding and infection, and having certain medical conditions or habits such as smoking increases your risk for problems.
What About Diet and Exercise?
Since diet and exercise are essential parts of keeping weight and fat away on other areas of the body, you might wonder why it doesn’t seem to do the same for chubby cheeks. The reason is because the buccal fat is a different type of fat. Its positioning between the muscles on the cheeks makes it more difficult to lose by limiting calories or by performing facial exercises. Plus, just as you can’t do thousands of crunches to melt away the fat on your abdomen and all the leg lifts in the world won’t target fat in the thigh area, you can’t expect facial exercises to do much to spot tone or target the buccal fat pads.
Getting Ready for Surgery
If you think you are a candidate for buccal fat removal, the first step is to schedule a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon. Your surgeon will discuss the effects of the surgery with you, evaluate the fullness of your cheeks and help you decide if you want to go forward. Computer imaging can help you see how you’ll look after the surgery. You can also look at photos of patients who have had the procedure and compare their before and after faces.
Before the day of your procedure, you’ll want to make sure you have a friend or family member who can bring you to and take you home from the surgery center. It’s also ideal to have that person stay with you at least overnight, in case you have any discomfort or need assistance. Your surgeon might give you a prescription for pain relievers. It’s a good idea to fill the prescription before your surgery, so that you have one less thing to worry about afterwards.
Although you might feel fine enough to return to work the day after surgery, it can be a good idea to take at least two days off. That way, you give yourself plenty of time to rest up and recover.
To learn more about buccal fat removal, schedule a consultation with Dr. Paul Vitenas, a top-rated plastic surgeon in Houston, Texas, today. Call 281-484-0088 to book your appointment.