What is buccal fat removal and why is everyone suddenly so interested in it?

buccal fat removal
buccal fat removal

Pronounced ‘buckle’, the buccal fat removal trend, mostly triggered by social media, has driven people into a slim face frenzy. Although a slimmer face and defined jawline have tremendous appeal, buccal fat removal is an old procedure that comes with its set of both appealing and not-so-appealing perks.

Of late, the internet saw a surge in the buccal fat removal trend, especially after famous cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen confirmed in one of her Instagram stories about her undergoing the surgery. However, if the procedure is an effective long-term solution, is still a topic of debate. As per an article titled ‘The Fat Compartments of the Face: Anatomy and Clinical Implications for Cosmetic Surgery’, by plastic surgeons Rod J. Rohrich and Joel E. Pessa in the American Society Of Plastic Surgeons’ journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, “the subcutaneous fat of the face is partitioned into discrete anatomic compartments. Facial ageing is, in part, characterised by how these compartments change with age.”

Dallas-based Dr. Rohrich, who has performed extensive research on fat compartments of the face, explains that “buccal fat is one of the most important fat compartments in the face” and is actually responsible for keeping your face youthful. In one of his YouTube videos about buccal fat removal, he makes it clear that even though people see the procedure being performed by many celebrities and influencers on Instagram, it should only be done in “carefully selected patients.”

Here’s everything you should know about buccal fat removal

What is Buccal fat removal?

buccal fat removal
Image credit: Fleur Kaan/Unsplash

According to the American Society Of Plastic Surgeons, “a buccal fat removal removes the buccal fat pad, a naturally-occurring pad of fat in the cheek hollow area.” The goal of this procedure is to make the cheeks thin and less chubby, in case you have a naturally fuller face. “It is a quick and simple procedure,” Dr. Andrew Jacono MD, a facial plastic surgeon in New York City tells Allure.

Who can avail it?

buccal fat removal
Image credit: Joeyy Lee/Unsplash

According to Cleveland Clinic (a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical centre), one might be a good candidate for buccal fat removal only if:

  • One is in a healthy physical condition.

  • One has a round face.

  • Personal choice. One should have their own valid reason to perform buccal fat removal. For example, a dislike for chubby cheeks.

  • One has a small rounded fat mass in the cheek due to a weak buccal fat pad.

Buccal fat removal is not recommended if:

  • The face is narrow. A buccal fat removal procedure for anyone who has naturally slim cheeks is not advisable.

  • One is older. Ageing naturally makes one lose face fat, and the procedure might only heighten the signs of facial ageing.

However, it is always advised to consult a plastic surgeon before any such procedure.

Is the procedure safe?

buccal fat removal
Image credit: Jafar Ahmed/Unsplash

Generally, Buccal fat removal is considered safe. However, in case of symptoms pertaining to infection or any other complication, always consult your healthcare provider.

What are the complications associated with buccal fat removal?

Most safe procedures or surgeries may have some unwanted cons. In the case of buccal fat removal or cheek reduction surgery, Cleveland Clinic states a few possible complications which include:

  • Infection

  • negative reaction to anaesthesia such as numbness (after the stipulated time)

  • damage of the salivary gland

  • damage of facial nerves

  • facial asymmetry

What is the cost?

Image credit: Marek Studzinski/Unsplash
Image credit: Marek Studzinski/Unsplash

There’s no definite cost estimate for a buccal fat removal procedure. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, surgeons often have varied fee structures based on their experience and location. So the best way to determine the final cost is to consult your plastic surgeon.

Typically, the cost of the procedure includes:

  • The Surgeon’s fee

  • Hospital/surgical facility costs

  • Anaesthesia

  • Medications

  • Tests

  • X-rays

What is the best way to choose a plastic surgeon for buccal fat removal?

When you decide to go for buccal fat removal or cheek reduction surgery, selecting a board-certified plastic surgeon who is a member of the Singapore Association Of Plastic Surgeons (SAPS) or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), or is board certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®, or is the certified by any other equivalent medical board, should be the first and the most important step.

What questions to ask during your consultation?

Image credit: RU Recovery Ministries/Unsplash
Image credit: RU Recovery Ministries/Unsplash

Before the consultation, please keep these pointers in mind:

  • It is crucial to know if the one performing the procedure on your face is trained, specifically in the field of plastic surgery.

  • Does the selected plastic surgeon have any specific training in buccal fat removal techniques?

  • Is the cost negotiable to some extent?

  • Is the surgery going to be hospital-based or office-based? Provided it’s the latter, ask if it is accredited by a national/state-recognised accrediting agency, or state-licensed or medicare-certified?

  • Are you a good candidate for the buccal fat procedure?

  • Will you be getting the desired results?

  • Will the process take a lot of time and what might be the steps involved?

  • Will you have a lengthy recovery period?

  • Are there risks associated with the procedure?

  • If you are taking any medications, herbs and supplements, will they affect the procedure in any way?

  • If you are not satisfied with the outcome, what are the other options?

What to do before the procedure?

The initial medical visits before the buccal fat removal surgery includes several tests. They also take multiple photographs of your face. You need to answer questions about your overall health, your family health history and past surgeries if any.

If you smoke, your plastic surgeon might want you to stop that prior to performing the surgery.

What is the procedure like?

Image credit: Artur Tumasjan/Unsplash
Image credit: Artur Tumasjan/Unsplash

According to Cleveland Clinic, Buccal fat removal surgery involves the following steps:

  • Firstly, local anaesthesia is given to numb the face to avoid the pain experience.

  • Although one is supposed to be awake during the procedure, general anaesthesia is also given if one opts for more than one procedure at the same time.

  • In the case of general anaesthesia, there may be an arrangement for transportation later.

  • Following this, the plastic surgeon goes for a small incision on the inside of the mouth on both sides of the cheeks. This is done to expose the buccal fat pads.

  • A gentle press is made to expose them further.

  • This is followed by a cut to remove the fat pads.

  • The final step involves the closing of the incisions with dissolvable (mostly) sutures.

What is the immediate post-procedure experience like?

The immediate aftermath of a buccal fat pad removal procedure includes swelling, bruising and numbness at the incision sites. However, as the face heals, these gradually fade away.

What is the recovery period like?

Image credit: Timothy Dykes/Unsplash
Image credit: Timothy Dykes/Unsplash

As the face continues to heal for several weeks after the procedure, Cleveland Clinic states the recovery time to be usually around three weeks. However, it takes several months for a patient to finally see the end results.

One is strictly advised to follow the plastic surgeon’s instructions during the recovery time, mostly till the swelling decreases. Also, follow-up visits are an important part of this period. That being said, one might mostly be required to stay on a liquid diet or consume soft foods until the face heals. One may also have to regularly use the special mouth rinses prescribed by the plastic surgeon to reduce infection.

(Main and Featured image credit: Andrey Zvyagintsev/Unsplash)

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