While some people find that a face that is naturally filled out is youthful, some people feel that their faces are just too full. Chubby cheeks and rolls that seem to have rolls of their own can be described as adorable if you are talking about a baby. Not so much when the example is you. If you can give a chipmunk with his cheeks full of nuts a run for his money, or you find that your chin is virtually non-existent under the squared edges of your face, you may want to find a way to slim down and tone your profile. Diet and exercise can take some weight off you if the cause of chubby cheeks were those few extra pounds. Unfortunately, not all cheek fat is the same.
What is buccal fat?
The head and face are a complex system of muscle, bone, cartilage, skin and yes, even fat. Each individual system contributes to the form and function of this region of the body. While bones and cartilage give the body its rigid shape and protect the vital organs beneath, the skin and muscles make mobility possible while holding everything together. But what is the function of fat?
In grade school, we all learned that fat can be used for energy by the body during times when food isn’t immediately available. In reality, fat does much more than that. It is used as an insulator and protector around vital organs and can even help protect us during some trauma. Toddlers just learning to walk benefit from the extra padding fat affords each time they fall. Though they may cry and even get little bumps and bruises from time to time, fat helps to insulate them from doing greater harm. Within the facial features, some fat is going to be present. It helps to give us that natural healthy look. But let’s face it, too much fat can take away from the features we want to highlight such as our eyes, mouth, and jaw.
Fatty or chubby cheeks can be caused by an enlarged buccal fat pad. This pad is one of several encapsulated fat masses located on either side of the face between the buccinator muscle and other more superficial muscles. While some theorize that the buccal fat pad’s primary function is in relation to chewing and suckling, especially in infants, others believe that it helps to facilitate the action of the muscles around it. The pad may also function as a cushion to protect the sensitive facial muscles from injury due to muscle action or other exterior force. The size of the buccal fat pad varies from person to person and it is not uncommon to see patients that have different sized pads in each cheek.
Buccal fat removal
When patients present that are concerned with extra fatty material in their cheeks, a procedure to thin the cheeks, especially in the area of the cheek hollows may be suggested. This buccal fat removal can contour the face giving it a sleek, slimmer look that showcases other facial features and gives the face a more balanced look.
Considering that liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures, you might be asking why the extra fatty material in the cheeks cannot be removed with this method. The answer lies in the placement of the pad itself. Buried deep within the check, the buccal fat pad is inaccessible without harming other structures needed for eating. But don’t let that fact worry you. Buccal fat can be removed through a relatively easy procedure that does not impair the structures around it. Performed under local anesthesia with medications to reduce anxiety and pain, surgery generally takes about 30 minutes to complete. During the procedure, a small incision is made inside the mouth, on the inner portion of the cheek. In patients with this condition, the pad can expand to the size of a ping-pong ball or golf ball producing unnaturally “chubby cheeks”. Once removed, the area is stitched together and allowed to heal.
After the procedure patients are typically put on a liquid diet and given a special rinse to prevent infections for a few days. The results of surgery may be obscured by swelling initially but the final results may take several months to fully develop as the cheeks gradually contour to their new appearance. The cheeks should appear less full and chubby giving you the sleek contoured look you have always wanted.
What is the masseter muscle?
In addition to excess buccal fat, the contours of the face can be unbalanced due to masseter muscle hypertrophy. The masseter muscle is a facial muscle that facilitates chewing solid foods. Shaped similar to a parallelogram, the muscle connects to the mandible (lower jawbone) and cheekbone. It is divided into two distinct sections, the superficial and the deep portions. The superficial portion of the masseter is the thick, tendon-like portion that connects to the cheekbone. The deeper portion connects to the mandible and is smaller and more muscular. While the masseter is the key muscle that pulls the mandible upward, three other muscles assist in this movement. Working together, the muscles pull the jaw down and back up again. In many people, the masseter muscle behaves as it should causing no additional issues. However, that is not always the case. Some individuals develop masseter muscle hypertrophy, a condition that causes the female jawline to take on a more masculine appearance.
What is masseter muscle hypertrophy?
Masseter muscle hypertrophy is the enlargement of the masseter muscle that can result in a harsh, square look at the angle of the jaw. The sheer bulk of the masseter muscle can cause individuals to grind their teeth while sleeping, weakening their jaw and damaging teeth in addition to other cosmetic concerns. As a result, portions are sometimes removed while performing jaw reduction surgery.
Botox® can be used to treat masseter muscle hypertrophy.
Some patients who suffer from masseter muscle hypertrophy are not ready for invasive surgical procedures. Instead, they elect to use other methods to treat the symptoms of the disorder. Botox® is one of those alternative treatments. Used to relax the muscle and soften the look of the lower face, Botox® can be an effective treatment. In contrast to Botox® injections on the upper face to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, in muscle hypertrophy treatment major results are not seen within the first week although you may notice a softer look and feel to the jawline. Dramatic improvement to the jawline may not be easily noticeable for the first three to six months after the initial injections. However, once changes begin, results can last anywhere from six months to a year. Most surgeons recommend that injections are repeated about every six months to maintain the results.
As with all Botox® procedures, the recovery period is amazingly short. Immediately after the injections, patients are allowed to return to their normal routines with the exception of exercising, bending over or rubbing the injection site for approximately 48 hours. This ensures that the Botox® settles in the right place and does not migrate elsewhere creating avoidable complications. Although any procedure comes with certain inherent risks, Botox® used to treat masseter muscle hypertrophy is considered very safe and a welcomed alternative to an invasive surgical procedure. Side effects from treatment are relatively rare but as with any cosmetic procedure, they can happen. The most common side effect of injections is temporary bruising, followed by headaches that can last up to 48 hours.
How does Botox® work?
Botox® is a neurotoxin derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Although the toxin can be lethal, Botox® has been successfully used to treat several medical and cosmetic conditions. It works by attaching itself to the nerve endings in the areas where injected preventing the neurotransmitter responsible for triggering muscle contractions from being released. This process temporarily relaxes the facial muscles that lie beneath the surface causing wrinkles. In the case of masseter muscle hypertrophy, Botox® also relaxes the underlying muscles to prevent them from thickening, giving the jawline a more masculine look.
Thankfully, masseter muscle hypertrophy treated with Botox® does not result in weakness in the bite or chewing capabilities. In addition, the best part of undergoing Botox® jawline recontouring is that it’s quick and painless according to patients. Unfortunately, not all patients are candidates for Botox® treatment. If you are interested in learning more about the procedure, Dr. Ali Sajjadian and his professional staff are standing by to assist you. During your personalized consultation, Dr. Sajjadian will measure the thickness of your masseter muscle to determine if recontouring this area is the ideal procedure for your aesthetic goals. Among other assessments, you will be asked to bite down hard while the outer jawline is examined. If your masseter muscle appears to be as hard as a rock and enlarged in appearance, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
Sculpt an elegant jawline today
Having a beautifully balanced face and an elegant jawline may come naturally for some people. For others, it takes some work. A sensible diet and exercise can help thin the face by removing excess material if weight is the underlying cause. For those whose issue isn’t weight but rather anatomical features that produce thickened muscles or enlarged buccal fat pads that result in the dreaded “baby face”, a more intensive approach must be taken. Both procedures can be used effectively, however, during your consultation additional procedures may be discussed that would help you achieve the greatest results. Often buccal pad removal is performed in conjunction with a facelift or Botox® treatments to further help to smooth and tighten facial features while removing any sagging skin or wrinkles.
Whether your desired look necessitates buccal fat removal, Botox® injections or a combination of procedures to reduce the size of the masseter muscles, Dr. Ali Sajjadian can help you reach your aesthetic goals. Let the professionals evaluate you today. As with every cosmetic procedure, our goal is to help you look and feel your best.