As children, we all have buccal fat pads in our cheeks responsible for the “baby face.” As we grow, chubby faces generally become more sculpted. With some people, however, the large cheek pads of childhood never dissipate. This condition is likely genetic, and it can make you seem overweight or puffy.
If you are bothered by chubby or chipmunk cheeks, a procedure called buccal fat repositioning or removal can help. This special procedure reduces or removes the oversized cheek pads to improve the contours of your face. Dr. Joseph Russell is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon specializing in facial procedures like cheek pad reduction. Learn more about how this procedure works and whether you are considered a good candidate.
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What are Buccal Fat Pads?
Buccal cheek pads are walnut-sized fat deposits located deep in the cheeks between the corners of the mouth and the nostrils. The pads are a continuation of deep fat on either side of the face between facial muscles. These pads help infants nurse while providing a smooth plane for the jaw muscles. Pockets of fat are responsible for the full-cheek or chipmunk appearance in children.
In most people, buccal fat naturally dissipates with age, but this does not always happen. When they don’t, they can create a chubby appearance to the face, even when the rest of the body is slender. Reducing the size of these cheek pads is a simple yet effective treatment that can transform a boxy facial shape to a more chiseled and contoured appearance.
How Is Buccal Fat Removal Performed?
Reducing cheeks pads can’t be done through facial liposuction as these pads have thick fibrous capsules. There are also facial nerve branches, parotid ducts, and anterior facial veins very close to the pads that may be damaged during liposuction. Buccal fat removal is instead performed through incisions on the inside of the cheek.
Tiny incisions will be made inside of your mouth under IV sedation, local anesthesia, or general anesthesia. Depending on the surgical approach and whether you are having other procedures performed at the same time will determine which type of anesthesia is used. The buccal extension of the pad will be located as it protrudes into the mouth. Very small incisions are made inside the cheek and the fat pad will typically pop out as it has very little connection with other structures.
The fat pad will be removed or reduced using a radiofrequency device that seals blood vessels and prevents bleeding. Your surgeon will ensure the ideal amount of fat is removed to create an elegant and sculpted appearance without removing too much fat to create a hollow or gaunt look to the face. The incisions will be closed with dissolvable sutures.
Surgery will take about 30 minutes for each cheek. Cheek reduction can be performed alongside other complementary procedures such as submental liposuction or a facelift.
Recovering from Cheek Pad Removal Surgery
This minimally invasive procedure has a quick recovery period. Most patients recover and return to work within 3 to 5 days. You can expect some initial facial swelling, although the amount of swelling varies by person. There will be numbness and soreness inside your mouth for the first few days, although this can usually be treated with cold compresses and Tylenol.
You will notice some results immediately after the procedure, although your final results will not be apparent for several weeks until all residual swelling has passed.
Am I a Good Candidate?
Cheek pad removal is designed to reduce the size of the cheeks, especially around the cheek hollows. You may be a good candidate for the procedure if you have a full face and round cheeks. This procedure is not designed for people with a thin face, as removing fat pads can make the face look gaunt, nor is it designed for patients who are overweight. If you are bothered by a baby face or chubby cheeks, you may be a good candidate for this procedure.
Schedule a Consultation for a Cheek Reduction
During your initial consultation with Dr. Russell, he will evaluate your cheek structure and discuss the results you would like to see. This consultation will also involve a review of your medical history to ensure you are a good candidate for cheek pad reduction.
If you believe you are a good candidate for buccal fat repositioning and you are bothered by the appearance of your cheeks, contact our office today at (843) 576-3302 to schedule a consultation with board certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Russell.