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WRITTEN BY: dr. shirley HU

You may have noticed that your social media has been inundated with the latest trending plastic surgery procedure called buccal fat removal. A wave of celebrities have had this performed, leaving a few looking astonishingly contoured. Read on to learn all about buccal fat removal surgery and whether it’s right for you.

What is buccal fat and why would you remove buccal fat?

Buccal fat is a pad of fat located between your cheekbones and your jawbones. It is the region right in the front and lower aspect of your cheek and can contribute to the ‘chipmunk’ look. Everyone has buccal fat, but some have it more than others. Unfortunately, it is not responsive to weight loss and is often hereditary.

What are the benefits of buccal fat removal?

Recently, there’s been a surge of interest in the V-face jawline with a more angular, chiseled facial appearance among both men and women, which is where buccal fat removal comes in.  The goal of buccal fat removal surgery is to create more definition in the face by casting a shadow across the hollows of cheeks, essentially mimicking the effect that puckering the lips can have. This play of shadow and light can draw the eye to the contours of high cheekbones and dramatically slim the lower third of the face.

What to expect with buccal fat removal surgery?

Buccal fat removal is a quick, 30-minute procedure performed in the office under local anesthesia. Small incisions are made inside the mouth right next to your upper molars, and the fat pad is carefully teased out and removed. Dissolvable stitches are then placed to close the incisions. You will have mild swelling on the internal surface of the cheeks for two weeks, but there is no social downtime. In order to harmonize the proportions of the face and neck, buccal fat removal can be accompanied by other procedures, such as chin liposuction or facelift surgery.





Who are the right candidates for buccal fat removal?.

There are a few general criteria:

  • Fullness in the front and lower aspect of your cheeks contributing to a wide lower third of the face
  • Elastic skin with minimal laxity
  • High cheekbones

Is buccal fat removal a good idea?

One of the main concerns is that removing buccal fat may look great now but over time could lead to an overly hollow appearance. Studies have shown that the buccal fat pad grows significantly from ages 10 to 20, then gradually decreases in size over the next 30 years. This decline is around 25%, which means that if you clearly have buccal fat contributing to your facial width, it will not change substantially over time, and buccal fat removal may be indicated. 

The takeaway is that buccal fat removal should be performed only in individuals who have a very specific fullness in the anterior lower part of the cheek, and only the correct amount of fat should be removed. Understanding facial anatomy is also key. Often, it is not excess fat that causes fullness but something else entirely, such as the masseter muscles, which are located behind the buccal fat pad. A consultation with a board-certified AIREM facial plastic surgeon will help you determine if you are a candidate for buccal fat removal. 

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