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Common Questions about Cheek Augmentation (Implants)

The appearance of a well-defined cheekbone helps provide a sculpted and youthful look as it provides midfacial prominence and give the appearance of a thinner lower face. Flat cheekbones can make a large nose look larger and a receding chin smaller. The cheekbones are one of the three convex prominences that help define your face, highlighting the eyes and adding balance to your features.

Cheek augmentation (also known as malar augmentation or malar implants) is a surgical method to bring the cheeks into better balance with your other facial features.

  1. How do I know I am a good candidate for cheek augmentation?

People who benefit by cheek implants have smaller or flatter cheek bones naturally and/or have sagging of the cheek soft tissues due to normal aging. With aging can also come deflation, or loss of healthy fat which normally lies just under the cheek bones. This can give a gaunt look to one’s face.

A cheek implant can build out the flat cheek bone, provided a lifting effect to sagging cheek skin, and can partially fill out a sunken in look. Think of it as adding substance which may just make the cheekbone bigger or help hold up sagging or collapsed tissues.

That being said, whether anyone would benefit by a cheek implant is as much an  artistic feel as a facial feature that can be precisely defined. Unlike other facial implants, such as chins or jaw angles which can be measured and morphed with computer imaging, cheek implants defy such analytical evaluation as the area is not a clean profile or silhouette. This is an area that requires a good evaluation and discussion with your plastic surgeon using a mirror and finger technique.

2. What are cheek implants made of?

The vast majority of cheek implants are made of solid silicone rubber that is very flexible. While there are a few other materials of which they are made, they are not very popular. What material they are made of is not as important as two other critical issues; what styles and sizes are available and how easy are they to insert. This is where silicone rubber has a huge advantage over other materials.

One type or style of cheek implant is not right for everyone. The cheek bone shape and geometry and the soft tissue overlying them is different for each patient. Just like the obvious benefits of different sizes, style or shape of the implant needs to be individualized. That is why there are nearly a half-dozen different cheek implant styles. Only a silicone rubber material can offer this diversity of selection.

The flexibility of silicone rubber and the ability to have feathered edges allows it to be the easiest material to position on the bone without having an edge that can be felt or seen.

3. How is cheek augmentation surgery done?

There are two approachs to placing the implant, from inside the mouth and through the lower eyelid. By far, the intraoral method from a small incision up high under the lip is preferred. The only reason to use the eyelid approach is if a midface lift or suspension is being done at the same time.

From inside the mouth, a path is made up onto the cheek bone. It can be extended out onto the zygomatic arch if necessary. Sizers are used to determine what will look the best. The final implant is then inserted. Some plastic surgeons secure the implant in place with a small titanium screw, others do not. Closure of the incision is done with dissolveable sutures.

4. Is cheek implant surgery painful? How long does the swelling last?

I would not call it painful, rather it is more uncomfortable due to the swelling. Often there is some numbness of the cheek skin  which goes away in the first month after surgery. There rarely is any bruising because the surgery is very deep on the surface of the bone. Any bruising that occurs will not be seen on the skin but will present only as swelling. While remnants of swelling take six to eight weeks to completely go away, you will look fairly normal within two to three weeks. The initial abnormal fullness will have go away by then.

5. What are the risks and complications that can occur?

The standard surgical risks of bleeding and infection apply but they are very uncommon. The risk that is more significant and probably accounts for most instances of revision or secondary surgery is implant asymmetry or sizing issues. Because the cheeks have two sides, the placement of the implants must be perfectly symmetrical. That may seem easy but even slight changes in orientation of the implant may be able to be seen. Implants can also shift or slide downward towards the direction in which they were placed. Oversized cheek implants are especially noticeable because they can make the face look very unnatural. Cheek implants are always best done smaller than bigger.

One risk of having cheek implants is delayed infection, even many years later. This is caused by one specific event…dental injections. This can happen when your dentist is numbing your upper teeth. The needle can tract bacteria near or onto the implant. Advise your dentist if you have cheek implants.

6. I’d like higher cheekbones but I don’t want them to look fake. How can this be avoided?

There are many well known examples of famous people that look strange and overdone after facial rejuvenation surgery. In some of these cases, it is obvious they had cheek implants and it is because they are too big. This ‘error’ is most likely to occur when cheek augmentation for anti-aging purposes and are being used to fill out sagging cheek tissues. A cheek implant is not the same as a breast implant…its size should not be pushed to do too much.

7. I have very flat cheeks that extend down below my eyes. It makes me look sad. Will cheek implants help?

Having flat cheekbones can give the face a long drawn look that many may describe as sad. In the facial expression of smiling, we naturally see more prominence in the cheek area. When it is flatter it adversely affects how one’s smile looks. More fullness in the cheek allows a more  youthful look, whether one is smiling or not.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana 

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Dr. Barry EppleyDr. Barry Eppley

Dr. Barry Eppley is an extensively trained plastic and cosmetic surgeon with more than 20 years of surgical experience. He is both a licensed physician and dentist as well as double board-certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. This training allows him to perform the most complex surgical procedures from cosmetic changes to the face and body to craniofacial surgery. Dr. Eppley has made extensive contributions to plastic surgery starting with the development of several advanced surgical techniques. He is a revered author, lecturer and educator in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

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