The buccal fat pad is a rounded mass of fat in the middle of your cheek. It’s located between facial muscles, in the hollow area beneath your cheekbone. The size of your buccal fat pads affects your face shape.

Everyone has buccal fat pads. However, the size of buccal fat pads can vary greatly.

If you have larger buccal fat pads, you might feel like your face is too round or full. You may also feel like you have a “baby face.”

There’s nothing wrong with having bigger cheeks. But if you’d like to make them smaller, a plastic surgeon might recommend buccal fat removal. This surgery is done to reduce the width of round faces.

If you’re interested in buccal fat removal, read on to learn about the procedure and the potential complications.

Buccal fat removal is a type of plastic surgery. It’s also known as a buccal lipectomy or cheek reduction surgery.

During the procedure, the buccal fat pads in your cheeks are surgically removed. This thins the cheeks and defines facial angles.

The surgery can be done alone or with another form of plastic surgery, such as:

You might be a good candidate for buccal fat removal if any of the following applies to you:

  • You’re in good physical health.
  • You’re at a healthy weight.
  • You have a round, fuller face.
  • You dislike the fullness of your cheeks.
  • You have pseudoherniation (small rounded fat mass in the cheek due to weak buccal fat pad).
  • You’re seeking facial feminization surgery.
  • You have realistic expectations.
  • You don’t smoke.

Buccal fat removal isn’t for everyone. It may not be recommended in the following scenarios:

  • Your face is narrow. If your face is naturally thin, the surgery might cause sunken cheeks as you age.
  • You have progressive hemifacial atrophy (Parry-Romberg syndrome). This rare disorder causes skin on one side of the face to shrink. It’s known to affect the buccal fat pad.
  • You’re older. As you age, you naturally lose fat in your face. The procedure might emphasize jowls and other signs of facial aging.

A plastic surgeon is the best person to determine if you’re an ideal candidate.

Before the procedure

Before the procedure, you’ll talk to your plastic surgeon about your:

  • expectations and goals
  • medical conditions
  • current medications, including vitamins and supplements
  • alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
  • drug allergies
  • past surgeries

This information allows your plastic surgeon to decide the best surgical approach as well as determine possible risks and recovery outlook.

You might need to stop taking some medications or get blood tests before the procedure.

Your plastic surgeon will also analyze your face and take pictures to plan the surgery.

During the procedure

The procedure may be done in a hospital or in a doctor’s office. Here’s what it usually involves:

  1. If you’re only getting buccal fat removal, you’ll be given local anesthesia in your face. You won’t feel any pain, but you’ll be awake during the procedure.
  2. If you’re receiving more than one surgery, you might be given general anesthesia. In this case, you’ll need a ride to and from the surgeon’s office.
  3. Your surgeon will make an incision inside your cheek. They’ll place pressure on the outside of your cheek to further expose the buccal fat pad.
  4. Your surgeon will cut and remove the fat.
  5. They’ll close the wound with dissolvable stitches.

After the procedure

Before going home, you’ll be given a special mouthwash to prevent infection. Your provider will explain how to care for your incision.

You’ll need to eat a liquid diet for several days. You can then progress to soft foods before returning to your normal diet.

After the surgery, your face will be swollen and you may experience bruising. Both should diminish as you heal.

Full recovery usually takes about 3 weeks.

During recovery, follow your doctor’s directions for self-care and eating. Attend all of your followup appointments.

You can expect to see results in several months. It takes time for your cheeks to settle into their new shape.

Buccal fat removal is generally considered safe. However, like all procedures, there’s a risk for unwanted side effects.

Possible complications include:

You might need another surgery to correct some of these issues.

See a doctor if you notice any of these unusual symptoms

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Buccal fat removal ranges between $2,000 and $5,000.

The procedure might cost more or less depending on factors like:

  • the surgeon’s level of experience
  • the type of anesthesia
  • prescription medications

Since buccal fat removal is a cosmetic procedure, it’s not covered by health insurance. You’ll have to pay out of pocket.

Before getting the surgery, talk to your surgeon’s office about the total cost. Ask if they offer payment plans.

It’s important to find a board certified plastic surgeon who has experience in buccal fat removal. This will ensure your surgery is performed safely and properly.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon, visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. On their website, you can find plastic surgeons by city, state, or country.

Choose a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This indicates that they received education and training according to specific professional standards.

Questions to ask at your initial consultation

Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your initial consultation. It’s the best way to find the best surgeon for your needs.

Consider asking the following questions:

  • Were you specifically trained in plastic surgery?
  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Have you performed buccal fat removal in the past?
  • Do you have before-and-after photos of previous patients?
  • How should I prepare for the procedure?
  • How will you perform my surgery? Where?
  • Am I at risk for complications? How will these be handled?
  • What can I expect during the healing process?

Finally, make sure you feel comfortable with your surgeon. They should make you feel safe and at ease.

Buccal fat removal is a surgery that reduces the size of your cheeks. A surgeon removes the buccal fat pads, creating a slimmer face.

If you meet certain health criteria and have a fuller face, you might be an ideal candidate.

In general, the procedure is considered safe. Recovery takes several weeks.

Like all surgeries, there’s a risk for complications. For best results, work with an experienced board certified plastic surgeon.