What Is Buccal Fat Extraction / Cheek Reduction Surgery?

Chipmunk cheeks or Chubby cheeks can make it look like you’re storing nuts for the winter. If you have chubby cheeks and want a thinner, more chiseled-looking face, buccal fat extraction or cheek reduction may be an option.

Considering cheek reduction surgery? Try this easy test: Purse your lips to whistle or drink through a straw, then look in a mirror. Do you like how you look? If so, this procedure may be right for you.

But beware: You may start to lose fat on your face as you age, which can result in a thinner appearance. If you choose to have this surgery and your face naturally thins, you may look gaunt and sickly. While there is no crystal ball to show you how your face will age, your parents can be a good guideline. If your mother and father still have chubby cheeks, yours are probably here to stay also. In this scenario, buccal fat extraction can help.

Keep in mind that if you gain a lot of weight, your cheeks may puff up again.


Buccal Fat Extraction: What to Expect

Buccal fat extraction is done on an outpatient basis with light sleep sedation, regional anesthesia with sedation, local anesthesia with oral sedation or general IV sedation; the choice is up to you and your surgeon. The procedure usually takes about an hour. It can be combined with other procedures, including face lift, but this increases the length of the operation and the potential risks.

During buccal fat extraction, your surgeon removes the fat pads that augment your lower cheeks. These pads, which can be found in your cheeks and along the sides of your face, give your face that rounded look. Some of this buccal fat can be removed surgically through incisions inside the mouth.

To do this, your surgeon will make an incision that is about two to four centimeters in length. The incision is located in the back of your mouth above your second upper molar. He or she will then cut through the buccinator muscle (one of the main muscles of your cheek). Then, by pressing on the outside of your cheek, your surgeon will cause the buccal fat to push through this incision. He or she will use a forceps to remove the unwanted cheek fat before closing with non-dissolvable sutures. Your surgeon may put a piece of antibiotic-soaked gauze between your upper molars and gums and/or apply a pressure dressing that spans from top of your head to underneath your chin.

You are then awakened and brought to the recovery room where you will be monitored until you are ready to be released. As you regain consciousness after cheek reduction, your face may feel tight and tender. You may even feel emotional and nauseated as you come out of anesthesia. These are common feelings and will pass. You cannot drive yourself home after surgery and must be driven home by a responsible adult, so make arrangements prior to surgery.

You may be groggy from the anesthetic and/or pain medications for the first day or two. Expect some swelling and bruising. Take it easy for the first few days. Sleep with your head elevated on at least two pillows or a foam wedge for as long as your surgeon suggests.

Eating can be a challenge after buccal fat extraction because you will have incisions inside your mouth. Eat carefully and avoid highly acidic foods such as tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit and cherries. These foods can irritate the incisions. You will be instructed to rinse with a mouthwash or an antiseptic solution several times a day. Keep your tongue away from your incisions and sutures.

In most cases, these sutures will be taken out about a week to 10 days after your buccal fat extraction. Do not participate in contact sports during the first 6 weeks.


Buccal Fat Extraction Risks

    Buccal fat extraction does have its share of risks and complications. All surgeries do. Risks of buccal fat extraction include:

    • Nerve damage


    • Numbness of the cheek and inside of the mouth


    • Puckering of the skin on the cheek


    • Excess scar tissue


    • Asymmetry


    • Cosmetic dissatisfaction