By Dr Leow Aik Ming
The buccal fat pad is a deep pocket of fat situated below the malar eminence (cheek) and behind the buccinator muscle. Excess buccal fat pads often give rise to the appearance of overly full and rounded cheek. The appearance of such facial features is sometimes referred to as “chip monk cheeks”, “chubby cheeks” or “baby face cheeks”. The size of buccal fat pad varies with each individual patient, and the buccal fat pad in each cheek may be different in sizes and volumes. These conditions are often hereditary in nature and cannot be readily reduced by exercise or diet. These excess buccal fat pads can only be removed by surgery.
Buccal fat removal surgery is performed to improve the definition of the face, transforming an excessively rounded chubby cheek to a slightly more chiselled look. Buccal fat removal surgery is performed through an intraoral incision, on the inner portion of cheek adjacent to the top second molar tooth. This surgery is usually performed under local anaesthesia with light sedation. Once the surgery is completed, the wound is often closed with absorbable sutures.
Buccal fat removal surgery should not be performed in people with thin and narrow faces as removal of these buccal fats may result in haggard facial appearance. Buccal fat removal surgery can also be performed along with other procedures such as face-lift, chin augmentation or neck liposuction.
The ideal candidates for buccal fat removal surgery:
- Bothered by the appearance of chubby cheeks
- Having a positive outlook, realistic expectations and specific goals in mind for improvement of facial appearance
- Physically healthy with no active or serious pre-existing medical conditions.
The final outcome of buccal fat removal surgery may not be apparent immediately after the surgery. It may take several months for the swelling and bruises to subside before the final results are seen. The expected outcome from the surgery will be a less chubby cheek. During the initial healing phase, patient may experience pain, numbness, bruises and swelling around the cheek or neck areas. These symptoms usually fade away after 3-4 weeks. Oral antibiotics and analgesics will be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection and postoperative pain respectively.