The Truth Behind Buccal Fat Removal

Published January 10th, 2022 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Chris Riley

Buccal fat 101 | Removal | Procedure | Recovery | Cost

Buccal fat removal is a surgical procedure that can be done to help people who want slimmer cheeks. It removes buccal fat, which is the excess tissue that builds up in your cheeks. It is a cosmetic surgery and aesthetic procedure that has become more and more popular over the years, especially as celebrities increasingly get it. This elective procedure is for anyone who feels too self-conscious about their appearance due to their cheeks. No one needs buccal fat removal, but if you are interested we will give you the facts on it to make an informed decision with your doctor.

What is buccal fat?

Buccal fat is a pad of adipose tissue, also known as fat tissue, that lies just beneath the cheek skin and has no known function. It is located on each side of the face next to two facial muscles, between the masseter muscle, which runs from the back of your jawbone up towards your eye socket, and the buccinator muscle, which runs from the back of your jaw toward your mouth. In simpler terms, it is the fat in the middle of your cheeks and the presence of the buccal fat tissue makes your cheeks appear larger and fuller. This surgery can be performed by itself, however, it is usually done in conjunction with additional procedures such as facelifts, rhinoplasty, botox injections, and lip augmentation.

buccal fat removal

Why would someone remove buccal fat?

Buccal fat removal, also called cheek reduction surgery, buccal lipectomy, or buccal fat reduction procedure, is most commonly performed to improve the appearance of the face. If you believe that you have too much buccal fat, both naturally from your facial structure or from weight gain, which can make it look like you have chubby cheeks and your face looks round and puffy. If you have larger cheeks you may feel insecure about them and want ways to make your cheeks smaller. This can affect your self-esteem and even your social life if you are embarrassed by them. For any of these reasons, whether it is purely aesthetic or due to self-esteem issues, you may choose to get buccal fat pad removal surgery.

Please know that it is perfectly normal to have round, full, cheeks. There is no medical reason necessary to get buccal fat removal. If you feel you would benefit from it please talk to your doctor.

Who is eligible for buccal fat removal?

Anyone who would like buccal fat removed from their face and feels that it detracts from their overall look may wish to have the procedure done. People of different genders, ethnicities, and ages may all choose buccal fat removal. It is important to note that buccal fat diminishes with the natural aging process, therefore the results of buccal fat removal surgery also become less dramatic as you get older. You should discuss your options for buccal fat removal carefully with a medical professional if you feel buccal fat removal may be an option for you.

There are several reasons you should not get buccal fat removal surgery. If you already have narrow cheeks, you should not get this surgery as it will only highlight your sunken cheeks which will become more dramatic with age. This also means if you are older you should also not receive this surgery. As noted above, your cheeks lose buccal fat as you age so there is no need to get this surgery if you are older as it can exacerbate the look of your facial aging. Lastly, if you have Parry-Romberg syndrome, which is a rare condition that causes the tissues on one side of the face to degenerate and shrink, you should also not get this surgery.

What happens during the buccal fat removal procedure?

The buccal fat removal procedure is a relatively simple and short surgery. It can be performed under local anesthesia, which means you will be awake but the area being operated on will be numbed. The surgeon will make a small incision in the inside of your mouth near your cheekbone and then extract the buccal fat pad. This surgery usually takes about 30 minutes to complete. After the procedure, patients are released the same day. There should be no visible scarring, but if there is some it will be inside your mouth on your cheek. 

How long is recovery from the surgery?

There is minimal recovery time after buccal fat removal surgery. Most people experience some swelling and bruising around the operated area, but this typically subsides within two weeks after surgery and usually within a few days. The swelling is also not usually visible from the outside of your cheek. Typically, doctors will use self-dissolving sutures which will have been used to close the incision in your cheek. It can take up to a few months for you to start noticing results in your appearance.

Are there any possible adverse effects from buccal fat removal?

Buccal fat reduction surgery is generally a safe procedure for patients. However, as with any surgery, there are some risks associated with buccal fat removal. These risks include infection, bleeding, swelling, and bruising. There is also a small risk that you could lose feeling in the cheek area or that the buccal fat removal surgery could cause asymmetry in your face. You can also suffer facial nerve damage with this procedure. 

How expensive is buccal fat removal?

The cost of buccal fat removal will vary depending on the surgeon you go to and the location of the surgery. Typically, it costs between $2000 and $5000 to have this procedure done. Please note that because this is a cosmetic procedure that most insurance plans will not cover the cost of this surgery.

Where can I get buccal fat removal?

If you are interested in buccal fat removal, please set up a consultation with your primary care doctor or cosmetic surgeon to discuss buccal fat removal. This is not a surgery that should be taken lightly and it is important to have all your questions answered before making a decision. If you would like to find a doctor, look for any board-certified plastic surgeon, which you should be able to find in your area.

Summary

Buccal fat is the fat in your cheeks and you may feel insecure or embarrassed by it. To manage this, you may look to a cheek reduction procedure known as buccal fat removal surgery that removes buccal fat pads from the inside of your cheeks. The procedure can be performed under local anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes to complete. There is minimal recovery time after buccal fat removal surgery and most people experience some swelling and bruising which subsides within a few days. The buccal fat removal surgery typically costs between $2000 and $5000, but most insurance plans do not cover the cost of this procedure. If you have any other questions please talk to your doctor, healthcare provider, or facial plastic surgeon about your options.

References and Sources:

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

NIH

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