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Cheek dimples are visible indentations of the skin that usually become apparent when one smile’s. They may be present in some people when their face is expressionless but most occur with facial movement. Cheek dimples are usually inherited and are a dominant genetic trait. What purpose they serve is unknown and the value of their genertically carried is even more obscure. When dimples are present, they are usually on both cheeks.  It is rare that they occur on one side of the face only.

While no one knows what the functional  purpose of cheek dimples is, it is known anatomically why they are present. In a study published in the 1998 journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, an anatomic study was performed and reported on them. It was discovered that they are caused by variation in the zygomaticus major facial muscle. This muscle is a major contributor to our smile by raising up the upper lip in an upward and outward direction. The muscle runs from its bony origin on the cheek (zygomatic) bone to insert into the upper lip. When a cheek dimple is present, it is caused by a split in the muscle. This makes the muscle be a double-band or is bifid. As one smiles, the muscle contracts or shortens and the split in it opens up drawing the overlying skin in. This explains why a cheek dimple may not be seen when one is not smiling but is when one is.

Very few people actually have dimples on their cheeks and the ones who have them are often viewed as an attractive feature. In my Indianapolis plastic surgery practice, it is possible to make dimples (cheek dimple creation surgery) through a relatively minor procedure. This is done by making a small incision on the inside of the cheek opposite the desired location of the dimple. Dimple locations are anterior to the parotid duct and the main body of the buccal fat pad. Dissection is carried through the zygomaticus muscle and a small permanent suture is placed between the underside of the skin and the muscle. It is important not to overtighten this suture since it isn’t particularly natural to have dimples when one isn’t smiling. The procedure definitely creates some bruising and it’s biggest complication is that the dimple may not be permanent if the suture pulls through in the first few weeks after surgery. Usually small to moderately-sized dimples can be created but large or deep indentations require tissue removal which I don’t advise.

A good question is ask is if this procedure is reversible or correctable if one doesn’t like the results. It is easily reversible in the first month or so after surgery which is in the time frame when one should know if the result is acceptable.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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