Buccal fat removal is a cosmetic surgery procedure used to improve the appearance of the cheeks. A plastic surgeon makes an incision inside the mouth, pulls aside the buccinator muscle, and extracts sections of fatty tissue. The result is a thinner, better defined lower cheek and jaw bone. Buccal fat removal is a popular procedure among overweight individuals, people who have recently lost a significant amount of weight, and men and women who simply have overly chubby cheeks because of genetics. There are few risks of complications following surgery, and most patients experience full recoveries in one to four months.
A person who is considering buccal fat removal can set up a consultation with a plastic surgeon to discuss the procedure in detail and gain a realistic expectation about the outcome. In general, professionals advise against the procedure if a patient is in poor health, has a weakened immune system, or is under the age of about 20. Younger people who still have developing face muscles and jaw bones may experience poor results from surgery, such as sunken-in or uneven cheeks in a few years.
Once a surgeon determines that a person is a good candidate for buccal fat removal, he or she can provide preoperative instructions. A patient generally needs to avoid eating or drinking anything but water on the morning before surgery and stop taking over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, to prevent unnecessary bleeding complications. Before the procedure, the patient is given a shot of local anesthetic in both cheeks and a sedative pill.
A surgeon usually performs buccal fat removal through a short horizontal incision on the inside of the lower cheek. Using precision instruments, he or she pulls the buccinator muscle upward and to one side. Pressure is applied to the outer cheek to compress fatty tissue and cause it to bulge through the cut. Using forceps or a scalpel, the surgeon carefully excises small sections of fat. The muscle is then moved back into place and the surgical wound is sealed with dissolving sutures.
In most cases, buccal fat removal can be completed in less than one hour. Patients are usually prescribed painkillers and allowed to leave the surgical center on the day of their procedures. In order to prevent irritation to the surgical scars, people are instructed to eat soft foods that do not require chewing for about five days. Numbness and cheek and mouth swelling are common for the first week, though a patient should return to the surgical center if swelling does not subside after the seven day mark.