Buccal fat removal can help reduce facial fullness, enhance the natural contours of your face, and help you achieve your desired look. 

It is difficult to target fat in a specific area of your body and the fat around the face tends to be highly resistant to diet and exercise. This guide will give you everything you need to know about the benefits, risks and side effects, and surgical process of buccal fat pad reduction to help determine if the procedure is right for you.

What is Buccal Fat Pad Removal?

Buccal fat pad removal, also commonly known as a cheek reduction, is a cosmetic surgical procedure. During the procedure, the fat pad is removed or reduced from the hollows of the cheek. These pads are a naturally occurring deep pad of fat that exist on both sides of the face in the middle to bottom third of the cheeks.

This process is available for those who want to reduce chubby cheeks, otherwise known as “chipmunk cheeks”. A cheek reduction can help transform a babyface into a more contoured look. 

The size of the buccal fat pad is different for everyone and is genetically determined. It can also be different or asymmetric in each cheek as well. Although a youthful look is often attributed to a soft and round face, it is possible for a person’s face to feel too full. 

Who Should Consider Buccal Fat Reduction?

The ideal candidate for buccal fat removal is physically healthy, at a stable weight, and is a non-smoker. This procedure is the best fit for someone who is bothered by the appearance of chubby cheeks and has been unable to achieve results through proper diet and exercise.

The procedure is not recommended for patients who already have a thin or narrow face, as it can lead to a gaunt appearance. The procedure is also not recommended for those with life-threatening illnesses or severe medical conditions. 

It is important to consult with the doctor before buccal fat removal and share your medical history. 

Pros and Cons of Buccal Fat Extraction

There are pros and cons to any type of surgical procedure. Buccal fat extraction can be the solution to reduce facial fullness and obtain more defined facial angles. Here is a general overview of the pros and cons associated with cheek reduction surgery. 

Pros:

  • Procedure is permanent
  • A quick procedure that is often completed in one hour awake, under local anesthesia in the office
  • Results in a slimmer face
  • Highlights the natural, youthful contours of the face
  • Reduces chubby cheeks
  • Helps increase self-esteem
  • Can create a more lifted appearance

Cons:

  • Swelling for two weeks like getting a wisdom teeth removal (a great excuse for being swollen if you have had this procedure done)
  • Risk of bruising and infection, although extremely rare

Although there are some risks with any medical procedure, one study shows that only 8.45% of patients presented minor complications as a result of the surgery like prolonged swelling for more than two weeks. Before you make a decision, it is important to schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon who performs a lot of these procedures to create a plan. This will help maximize the benefits and reduce the risk of side effects.

What to Expect During Your Buccal Fat Pad Procedure

The actual surgery for fat removal in the cheeks is performed under local anesthetic in a procedure room and takes approximately one hour. Medications may be used in conjunction with the local anesthetic to help alleviate anxiety and pain. 

The process for cheek reduction surgery is rather simple. The surgeon will go in and create a small incision inside the mouth. This incision can be created on either one or both sides of the face. This is dependent on the patient’s goal and is discussed with the doctor before the surgery. 

The buccal fat pad can range from the size of a pea to the size of a strawberry. The patient will consult with the doctor to determine how much of the buccal fat pad will be removed to achieve the desired look

What to Expect at Your Consultation

Everyone has a different face shape and the size of the buccal fat pads may vary from person to person. Prior to the procedure, the patient and surgeon will set up a consultation. The doctor will be able to examine the patient’s face and come up with a personalized game plan to help the patient achieve their desired look.

The patient should be prepared to discuss their medical history with the doctor. The patient should also have realistic expectations for this procedure.

It is during this time that the patient should let the doctor know of any questions or concerns they have about the procedure. It is important to choose a doctor who has the experience, skillset, and confidence necessary to perform the procedure. The patient and doctor will work collaboratively to set up a surgical plan that is optimized to help the patient obtain their goal. 

Questions to Ask at Your Consultation

  • What are the risks and complications associated with buccal fat removal surgery? 
  • What are the benefits of this procedure?
  • Am I a good candidate?
  • Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
  • What qualifications do you have to perform this procedure?
  • How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
  • Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, where?
  • Is the surgical facility that you will be performing this procedure state-licensed, Medicare-certified, or accredited by a nationally/state-recognized accrediting agency?
  • What is the optimal way to achieve the results that I want?
  • Where will you be performing my procedure?
  • Is there a specific technique that is recommended for me?
  • What should I expect during the procedure?
  • What should I expect after the procedure?
  • Do I need to come back after the operation?
  • What type of stitches will be used?
  • When will the stitches be removed? 
  • How long is the recovery process?
  • What is the recovery process like?
  • Do I need any help during my recovery?
  • What do I do if I experience any complications with my surgery?
  • What are my options if I do not like the outcome?
  • Do you have any before and after photos for this procedure so I can see some samples of your work?
  • Where will I be taken after the procedure is complete?
  • Will, I need to apply bandages after surgery?
  • When can I resume normal activities?
  • When can I start exercising again?
  • What medication will I be given?
  • When do I need to return for a follow-up?

The Day of Your Buccal Fat Pad Extraction

Every patient will have an individualized surgical plan that has been optimized for their own results. Here is a general overview of what the procedure is like. 

  1. The surgeon will go over the individualized surgical plan with the patient and mark the specific incision sites on the patient.
  2. A local anesthetic (or general anesthesia if requested by the patient) will be administered to the patient to provide comfort and prevent pain during the surgical procedure. The doctor will recommend the best type of anesthetic to use before the surgery and it will be provided in the individualized surgical plan. 
  3. The surgeon will create a small incision on the inside of the mouth, on the inner portion of the cheek. Most buccal fat reduction surgeries require this incision. However, it is possible to remove the buccal fat pad in conjunction with a facelift procedure. The surgeon will either remove or reduce the buccal fat pad size. 
  4. The surgeon will close the incision inside the mouth. These sutures are usually dissolvable and will fall out on their own. 
  5. The doctor will send you home with a recovery plan and will need to see you post-op. It will take a couple of weeks for the majority of the swelling to go down and up to three months to see the final results.

What to Expect Post-Op

There is a recovery time following this procedure. After the operation, the doctor will provide the patient with a recovery plan to help ensure that they reduce the risk of infection or other side effects. 

Instructions may include:

  • No sharp food like chips for the first few days
  • Medications that will aid the healing process. These can be taken orally like antibiotics.
  • A list of what not to do (this may include not playing with the sutures or avoiding physical exercise)
  • Follow-up appointments
  • Any other specific instructions catered to each person

The swelling will decrease over the next several weeks and results can begin to be seen in as little as two weeks. It will take anywhere from two to four months to see the final results of this procedure. Continue to follow your plastic surgeon’s post-operative instructions and attend any follow-up appointments. 

Possible Risks and Side Effects 

Many benefits are associated with buccal fat pad removal surgery, but there are also risks and side effects that may be involved with the procedure. 

Risks and complications may include: 

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to surrounding tissues
  • Slow recovery period
  • Unbalanced appearance, especially during the time of swelling as one cheek my de-swell faster than the other
  • Hematoma

The surgeon will explain the risks and complications of the surgery in detail before the procedure. Oftentimes, the patient will be asked to sign consent forms stating that they understand the procedures regardless of the risks and side effects associated with the surgery. The patient should address all their questions and concerns with the plastic surgeon before the procedure. 

Buccal Fat Removal Before and After

buccal-fat pad removal

buccal-fat pad removal

buccal fat pad

Common Questions People Ask:

How long does it take to see results?

Results can be seen two weeks after surgery when swelling begins to subside. However, it is important to note that it can take anywhere from two to four months after the buccal fat excision to see the full results. 

What is the cost of buccal fat reduction?

Buccal fat pad removal cost can range drastically. This is dependent on the surgeon’s geographic location as well as his/her experience. The pricing will include the surgeon’s general fee, surgical facility costs, medical tests, medication cost, and anesthesia fees. Most surgeons offer payment plans for their patients that can be discussed during the consultation. Overall, buccal fat pad reduction surgery ranges from $3,500 to $8,500, depending on location and the experience of your plastic surgeon. 

Is buccal fat pad extraction painful?

The patient will be given a local anesthetic during the procedure to help alleviate pain. The recovery process can be sore but various medications can help ease any discomfort. It is important to follow the instructions that your plastic surgeon will provide you post-op to reduce the risk of side effects. 

At what age can buccal fat removal surgery be performed?

Buccal fat removal surgery can be performed at any age.

Is buccal fat removal for men and women?

Yes, buccal fat removal is suitable for both men and women. 

Are the results of buccal fat pad removal permanent?

Yes, the results of buccal fat pad removal are permanent. It can take up to four months to see the final results. However, if a significant amount of weight (usually more than 30 pounds is gained in the future, the cheeks may plump up again.