Buccal Fat Pad Removal: No More Chubby Cheeks!

Buccal fat pads are structures that we are all born with. They lie within our cheeks, and there is one on each side. With increasing age, we tend to lose some of the fat underneath the skin in our face, but the buccal fat pads remain the same size. With time, this can result in a more “square shaped” or “bottom heavy” face. Additionally, the buccal fat pads tend not to respond to weight loss. Some people, even young people, who are very active may be bothered by their persistent “cheeky” facial appearance, despite losing weight in other areas of their body. In general, these are the two broad classes of people who may benefit from removal of their buccal fat pads.

Buccal Fat Pad Removal Procedure

Buccal fat pad removal can be performed in the office or the operating room, and it can be done under varying levels of anesthesia, from fully awake to fully asleep. Many patients choose to have the procedure done in the office while they are fully awake, using only local anesthesia. In these cases, the fat pads are removed through small incisions inside the mouth. After injecting a small amount of lidocaine, an incision is made on the inside of the cheek. The fat pad is identified, removed, and the incision is closed with tiny stitches. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes, and there is typically not significant downtime afterward. This procedure can be performed at the same time as other facial procedures, including liposuction, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, and facelift surgery. In people undergoing buccal fat pad removal at the same time as facelift surgery, we do not have to make incisions inside the mouth. Instead, we can access and remove the fat pads through the facelift incisions, which reduces the total amount of dissection and allows for a faster procedure with less recovery time.

Results & Risks

The results of buccal fat pad removal are permanent, and the fat does not grow back. However, the final results do take several months to become apparent. This is because the process of wound healing takes several months to a year, and the area which formerly held the fat pad will slowly shrink down with scar formation.
The risks of buccal fat pad removal are minimal. Since incisions are placed in the mouth, external scars are avoided. There are no significant nerves or blood vessels in the area that could be injured. Anytime a procedure is performed in the mouth, there is risk of damage to the lips, teeth, or gums, but these risks are avoided with careful and meticulous technique. Perhaps the largest risk involved is not necessarily a risk but a limitation of the procedure. The limitation is that not everyone is a candidate for the procedure. Before undergoing buccal fat pad removal, it is very important to be evaluated by a Facial Plastic Surgeon with experience in this procedure. In people who are good candidates for this procedure, buccal fat pad removal is a powerful tool that can make a big difference in their appearance and confidence.